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He Mihi

Āio ki te aorangi 
Āroha ki te aorangi 
Koa ki te aorangi 
Pono ki te aorangi

Kia tau ko te kahukura 
Te wairua kore here 
Te kawe i te tika me te pono

Homai te aroha 
Homai te mātauranga 
Ki roto i ngā kete toru 
Ko te kete aronui, 
Te kete tuauri, 
Te kete tuatea 
Ki te ao mārama 
Tihei mauri ora 

Executive Summary

This study and its methodology reflect Kaupapa Māori Research, that is for, with, and by Māori. The report comprises a review of relevant literature, and an overview of the statutory environment, combined with responses from interviews with practitioners across the media-sphere, to provide an understanding of mātauranga Māori in the media. It offers recommendations and strategies to enhance mātauranga Māori across the media and te ao Māori. The specific research objectives will be addressed first, followed by a set of recommendations and strategies.

The study offers an in-depth understanding of the implications and significance of media’s treatment of mātauranga Māori, particularly for Māori as kaitiaki of mātauranga Māori. A long history of Māori activism has led to growth in Māori media, alongside revitalisation of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori. Though this has been undermined by negative stereotyping and racist treatment of Māori in the media, there have been significant, positive developments in recent decades, as evidenced by case studies in the appendices.  

Incorporation of additional guidelines surrounding the protection and use of mātauranga Māori is highlighted, which could be incorporated in the Government’s Safer Online Services and Media Platforms (SOSMP) review, particularly if these are developed in consultation with Māori in the media, through meaningful and mutually beneficial collaboration and partnerships between Crown agencies and Māori.

Community expectations around this area have been clearly articulated in the Findings section.

In terms of the Crown’s all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori, and with regard to WAI262, there appears to be an absence of a comprehensive, government-wide approach and policy regarding mātauranga. Therefore, strategies outlined below will contribute further to this work.

Useful guidance to broadcasters and production companies, national and international, can be developed, building on the work published by Ngā Aho Whakaari.

This report contributes to building better understanding of media capabilities in their use of mātauranga Māori across the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s media system. 

 Recommendations and Strategies

  1. A review of Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho|Broadcasting Standards Authority (hereinafter BSA) complaints procedures and standards is important. However, such a review might begin by revising the consultation practices concerning te ao Māori matters. For example, ensuring Māori representation across all levels, from governance to the front line is important. Also, there is a need for the Māori personnel and advisors to include a diverse range of Māori perspectives, over and above knowledge of te reo me ngā tikanga and mātauranga Māori, taking into consideration factors such as age, gender, and tribal affiliation.
  2. A revised consultative process between BSA and Māori would facilitate discussions around incorporating additional broadcasting standards or guidelines surrounding the use of mātauranga Māori. Such a consultative process would further contribute to delivery of the Crown’s all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori.
  3. A further recommendation calls upon the BSA, Te Puni Kōkiri, and Manatū Taonga to collaborate in the organisation of hui, to wānanga on te ao Māori and mātauranga. The groups and hapori to participate in such a hui might include representatives from: Te Hunga Rōia (Māori Lawyers Association), Ngā Aho Whakaari, Te Mātāwai, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Māori representatives from the broadcasting sector such as Te Māngai Pāho, Whakaata Māori and Television New Zealand, as well as a selection of Māori leaders, representing iwi and industry. Such a gathering could follow the model from the very successful and recently concluded Toi Ora Hui (Te Papa, June 14-16, 2023).
  4. The BSA, Te Puni Kōkiri and Manatū Taongacould work together to publish reports on mātauranga Māori, encompassing the outcomes of the hui and wānanga previously mentioned. This report might include any decisions that the BSA, and other relevant Crown entities, have made regarding these matters, which would further facilitate the sharing of knowledge and promote ongoing engagement with te ao Māori.
  5. There were calls for improved knowledge of te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori, as well as evidence of cultural competency, by Crown representatives on governance entities. These skills could be developed and delivered, in the same way that the Institute of Directors offers courses on governance and leadership.  
  6. The key recommendation calls upon the Crown to support and facilitate the creation of an entity, for which we tentatively proffer the title of a Kāhui Mātauranga, which mirrors the Te Mātāwai model of partnership, that would hold the mana of mātauranga Māori on behalf of Maihi Karauna and Maihi Māori. Such an entity could:
    • work alongside the BSA to assess complaints under existing broadcasting standards, and also to inform future discussions, policies, and practices in this area;
    • provide advice on additional broadcasting standards or guidelines surrounding the use and protection of mātauranga Māori
    • support the government with the Safer Online Services and Media Platforms (SOSMP) review;
    • sit alongside government and other agencies, as Te Tiriti partner, to facilitate the all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori, in an holistic endeavour, particularly as the Crown moves to address the findings and redress for WAI262;
    • work with existing Māori organisations in the development of protocols and resources to guide broadcasters and the wider media on the application and protection of mātauranga Māori. This work could build on earlier publications by Ngā Aho Whakaari;
    • develop, fund, and oversee relevant mātauranga Māori and cultural competency programmes or micro-credentials, working with entities such as the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, and Work Development Councils. A special module would be available for all those entering governance roles in Crown agencies. Other modules could be developed, taking in the different contexts for tangata whenua and tangata tiriti;
    • invest in the development of whanau, hapū and iwi initiatives to revitalise and protect the kōrero tuku iho of those communities.
  7. The case studies offer insights into organisations and initiatives that have developed innovative models for protecting, enhancing, and nurturing mātauranga Māori in the media, in ways that could be supported in other kāinga and hapori. These models build an understanding of media capabilities in their use of mātauranga Māori across the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s media and are provided to give impetus to the potential for further mutually beneficial relationships between te ao Māori and the Crown.


This study explores mātauranga Māori in the media, at the request of Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho|Broadcasting Standards Authority, Te Puni Kōkiri|Ministry of Māori Development, and Manatū Taonga|Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The project began on April 1st and concluded on July 7th, 2023. The research team comprised Ella Henry (Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa, Te Rārawa, Ngāti Kuri), Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Business, Economics & Law, and Director of Māori Advancement in the Business School; Dr Christina Milligan (Ngāti Porou), Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication Studies, and Research Assistant, Shilah Wete (Waikato Tainui), from Auckland University of Technology.

The specific research objectives of the study were to:

  1. Gain an understanding of the implications and significance of media’s treatment of mātauranga Māori particularly for Māori as kaitiaki of mātauranga Māori (e.g., for purposes of assessing complaints under existing broadcasting standards and informing future discussion, policies, and practices); 
  2. Gain an understanding of whether there is a case for incorporation of additional broadcasting standards or guidelines surrounding the use of mātauranga Māori (whether now or as something that should be promoted in the Government’s Safer Online Services and Media Platforms review) and, if so, what they might be; 
  3. Gain an understanding of community expectations around this area; 
  4. Contribute to delivery of the Crown’s all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori;
  5. Enable delivery of useful guidance to broadcasters; 
  6. Build an understanding of media capabilities in their use of mātauranga Māori across the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s media system. 

The key questions to be addressed in the study were:

  1. What does appropriate treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media look like?
    This would include identifying:
    Key areas where considerations arise in media, in terms of:
    • use of Te Reo Māori 
    • use of and reference to mātauranga Māori and other taonga 
  2. Appropriate tikanga/rules for the identified areas 
  3. What are the possible:
    • benefits of getting this right?
    • impacts of getting this wrong? 
  4. How should we evaluate good practice by media in this area? 

In the following sections we provide: 

An overview of the research design

  • A review of literature relevant to mātauranga Māori in the media
  • A review of the statutory and regulatory environment relating to Crown obligations to mātauranga Māori and the media
  • The findings, drawing on the primary data collected from research participants, and written in a narrative, story-telling format to reflect the views and aspirations of participants, as story-tellers in the media
  • The conclusion section further synthesises the findings to specifically address the research objectives
  • The appendices draw on a series of initiatives, which the authors believe offer innovative strategies for enhancing mātauranga Māori, and which further contribute to wellbeing for te ao Māori. These models incorporate strategies that are transferrable across other communities, regions, and industry sectors, with appropriate, further support and investment. 

It is our hope that this report, not only meets the needs of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, Manatū Taonga and Te Puni Kōkiri, but also accurately reflects the views, aspirations, and mātauranga of those who so generously shared their time and knowledge.

Research Design

This study draws on a Kaupapa Māori research paradigm. That is, it is a project which is informed and underpinned by an ontology grounded in Māori philosophy and world-view; an epistemology shaped by mātauranga Māori, traditional and contemporary Māori knowledge and science; an axiology that reinforces Māori values and research ethics (Smith, 1999; Henry & Pene, 2001; etc). Emanating from these core tikanga and values is a methodology that draws together the above-mentioned elements in a set of research methods which adhere to Kaupapa Māori Research principles:

  • Being research for, with, and by Māori, unless invited by Māori;
  • Conducting research that validates te reo me ngā tikanga Māori;
  • Conducting research that contributes to positive and empowering outcomes for Te Āo Māori.
    (Wolfgramm & Henry, 2015, p. 276)

The specific research methods we drew on involved:-

  • Ensuring our leadership was tika and pono. This required appointment of a Kāhui-Advisory Board encompassing a range of expertise in te ao Māori, Māori scholarship and Māori media. Their role has been to support and monitor the research, researchers, and findings, in terms of scholarship, and te reo me ngā tikanga Māori. They are: 
    • Professor Pare Keiha, (Te Whānau-a-Taupara o T’Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata), QSO, Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori, AUT
    • Rhonda Kite, (Te Aupouri), ONZM, award-winning Māori innovator and entrepreneur
    • Sharon Hawke, (Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei), Māori and iwi communications and media expert
    • The Kāhui met three times during the project, at the outset, prior to release of the draft report, and before submission of the final report and their feedback has also been incorporated into the findings.
  • Appointment of a research assistant, an AUT student, who is well versed in te reo me ngā tikanga Māori, currently completing a Bachelor of Health Studies, Shilah Wete (Tainui).
  • Reviews of relevant literature, led by Dr Christina Milligan, and the statutory environment, conducted by Tuia Group.
  • In-depth interviews with twenty-five Māori media stakeholders. These participants ranged from broadcasters, funders, film-makers, producers of fictional and factual content, those in governance, executive and junior roles, senior scholars, kaumātua and rangatahi across the media sphere incorporating print, radio, television, film and digital production. These interviews were conducted in places that were best suited to participants, involving travel around the motu. Each interview was conducted, drawing on tikanga of aroha, respect for the shared mātauranga; kaitiakitanga, care for, and protection of, the information gathered; and manaakitanga toward those who shared their whakaaro.
  • Alongside the interviews, an anonymous, online survey was developed, for Māori practitioners, asking for responses to the research questions. Information about the survey was disseminated through Ngā Aho Whakaari, the association of Māori in screen production. An email sent to those who participated in the 2023 Ngā Aho Whakaari Screen Production Hui (March 24), directed interested parties to the Survey Monkey site. Unfortunately, difficulties with the linkage resulted in only 11 responses, when over 150 people attended the Hui. Despite that, very useful qualitative responses were gathered from respondents, which reflected similar views from interview participants.
  • After gathering the primary data, the research team collectively engaged in deep wānanga with the primary data, as an exercise in collaborative thematic analysis. This is an Indigenous model of collective analysis that provides a counter-balance to the Eurocentric emphasis on computer-based, or individualistic modes of thematic analysis, delivering in-depth analyses borne out of Māori culture and values (Henry, Mika & Wolfgramm, 2019).
  • Compilation of a draft report, which was first distributed to all those who participated in early June. This enabled participants to be actively engaged in the outcomes of the research, as a fundamental component of Kaupapa Māori research, which recognises that research is created out of reciprocal and empowering relationships between the researchers and the researched. This enabled each individual to effectively converse their perspective, thereby ensuring the findings and report accurately reflected the views of respondents.
  • Submission of a draft report on June 16th, for further discussion and reflection with representatives of the contracting parties.  

This study, and its research design, reflects Kaupapa Māori Research methodology. As well, the body of knowledge derived from the study contributes to mātauranga Māori, for, with and by Māori people, to further enhance positive outcomes for Māori people, and the unique and distinctive identity of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Literature Review


This literature review seeks to surface the key elements of discussion in considering the representation of Māori, and by extension mātauranga Māori, in the media.  It looks first at the concept of mātauranga Māori itself, tracing its emergence into common usage in the new millennium.  It then moves on to assess an indicative range of research discussing the racism inherent both historically and still today in New Zealand’s media. It then looks at evidence around cultural and political strategies already in play which mitigate against Indigenous sovereignty in considering the implications of the Indigenous-state relationship in the media.   Finally it reviews specific examples of the application of tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori in media practice which may assist in centering the voices of Māori as the voices of authority in reporting and commenting on Māori people, events and issues in the media today.

Defining Mātauranga Māori

mātauranga Māori is a term that has become increasingly important as an issue to be addressed by successive governments in recent decades. One might argue this to be a direct consequence of the findings of the WAI 263 Claim to the Waitangi Tribunal. It is also, no doubt, a consequence of the recognition by government and its agencies that improved Crown-Māori relations is good for wider Aotearoa New Zealand society. This has been reflected in the creation of Te Arawhiti, the Office for Crown Māori Relations set up in 2018. This is complemented by a raft of legislation and policies addressing issues around mātauranga, including the Vision Mātauranga Policy (2007) from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

On that basis, one might assume that the term has an ancient lineage in Māori scholarship and literature. However, a brief perusal of the academic literature, from Scopus and Google Scholar, indicates the term was little used in publications, and has only come into common parlance in the new millennium. After a necessarily brief search, the earliest use of the term was found in a chapter by Simmons & Biggs, which drew on the writing of Whatahoro in 1863.  He wrote, “He whakapaparanga no ngā kōrero me ngā mātauranga a ngā tupuna, ki te hahanga o te rangi, o te whenua, me ngā mea katoa i te rangi, i te whenua, me o rātou whakapapa”, [glossed as, ‘whakapapa holds the knowledge from the ancestors about connections to the sky, the lands and all precious things’] (1970, p25).

In his MA thesis, Muru Walter’s (1980) analysed archaeology, from a Māori perspective, noting that, “Archaeologists dig up remains whereas for the Māori his history is a living tradition” (p4). Walters recorded and drew on ethnographic accounts from elders in the Ngāti Awa region, who spoke only in te reo, and who frequently referred to mātauranga. In one such sentence, he quoted and translated from one of the kaumātua, who had been asked for the name of a pā by an archaeologist. “Kare au e whakaae ki te hoatu ki a koe ngā mātauranga I refused to give them any information” (p93). The kaumātua added that he did not share the mātauranga, because they were not courteous enough to ask the local Māori people first, before excavating the site. This is an example of the reciprocal nature of sharing mātauranga, and the role of knowledge-holders to protect that mātauranga.

One of the earliest Māori scholars writing in English about mātauranga Māori is Mead (1983), when discussing what to include in Māori studies, a then newly formed subject at university level. Though this is a long quote, it captures the depth of the topic as well as the zeitgeist of the times:

The name of the subject still presents some problems for some of the knowledge managers. Teachers at the secondary level tend to separate the two aspects of Māori Studies. Thus, they speak of Māori language. Māori culture includes all of the non-language activities which they teach and is apt to be dominated by song and dance. More recently, Anne Salmond (1980:249) has focused our attention upon mātauranga Māori, as a term to include a body of knowledge which contrasts with Pākehā or Western knowledge.

Mātauranga Mäori can be seen as constituting the knowledge base which Māori people must have if they are to be comfortable with their Māoritanga and competent in their dealings with other Māori people. It represents the heritage of the Māori.  It helps us to understand the nature of our subject and hence provide some guidance as to what our responsibilities are to the Māori people” (p338)

Another comparatively early scholarly work by Māori is from the Master’s research by Ngāmaru Raerino (1990). His thesis differentiated between mātauranga Māori, Māori knowledge, and Māori epistemology.  According to Raerino, mātauranga Māori was used to refer to traditional forms of pre-European knowledge, whilst Māori knowledge relates to, and has emerged at the interface of Māori ideas and culture in the post-contact era.  He compared these with Māori epistemology, which he described as a concept that bridged the two categories of mātauranga Māori and Māori knowledge. On his analysis, Māori epistemology is a uniquely Māori perspective, emerging from in-depth understanding of Māori oral traditions. 

Moving into the 21st Century, there has been exponential growth in scholarship and publication, for, with, and by Māori, defining, relating to, extrapolating from, and arguing for mātauranga Māori, that is far too broad for the purposes of this review. However, some trenchant views are offered. According to Hikuroa (2017), “ mātauranga Māori spans Māori knowledge, culture, values and world view” (p5). On his analysis, pūrākau and maramataka can be viewed as forms of mātauranga Māori. Taken together these combine to form a knowledge system that comprises methods, techniques and strategies, which Māori continue to adhere to and practise. He goes on to add that, “Hitherto mostly ignored or disregarded by the science community because it seemed to be myth and legend, fantastic and implausible, mātauranga Māori includes knowledge generated using techniques consistent with the scientific method, but explained according to a Māori world view” (p5). In a similar vein, Stewart (2019) argues, “against equating mātauranga Māori with science, since I think it is better conceived as a form of philosophy of science, rather than as a form of ‘science’ itself. This approach possibly allows ideas from mātauranga Māori to inform science at a values level, below the level of the empirical knowledge base, without needing to claim that mātauranga Māori is the same as science or uses scientific methods” (p19)

Such a view is ignored by those who see mātauranga as a threat to the hegemony of Western science, as seen in the recent attack on mātauranga Māori, in a letter penned by seven University of Auckland professors to the Listener in July 2021, which set off a flurry of responses. The letter raised concerns that the new NZQA curriculum was giving parity for mātauranga Māori with other bodies of knowledge. They made the point that “ mātauranga Māori should not be accepted as an equivalent to science”, adding ‘it may help ... but it is not science” (Dunlop, 2021). The University of Auckland immediately distanced itself from the seven, and the Royal Society of New Zealand initiated an investigation. Media responses were swift and tended to reflect criticism of the professors. One media outlet noted that, “An open response signed by over 2000 academics said they “categorically disagree” with their colleagues’ views, which they said, “ignores the fact that colonisation, racism, misogyny, and eugenics have each been championed by scientists wielding a self-declared monopoly on universal knowledge” (Sachdeva, 2021). 

Finally, from an enquiry online, one can find generic definitions of mātauranga such as this:

Giving a definitive translation of mātauranga Māori is challenging, as it covers a wide expanse of knowledge and understanding. At its simplest, mātauranga Māori might be described as ‘Māori knowledge’. Within this body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors are Māori world views, values and perspectives, Māori creativity, and cultural practices and recognition of the inter-related connectedness between all life forces, both those seen and unseen with the human eye (Tākei, nd)

Thus, mātauranga can be seen as knowledge held by the individual or the community that is steeped in ancient wisdom and tradition. It can be seen as both the body of knowledge, and the process by which it is protected, shared, and held across the temporal and the spatial.  the process by which it is protected, shared, and held across the temporal and the spatial. With this overview of the term mātauranga Māori in mind, this review now turns to the experiences of Māori people, culture, and language in the media, and the underlying racist attitudes which inform such treatment.

Racist Treatment of Māori in the New Zealand Media

On November 30th, 2020 the news company Stuff issued a press release which gained attention worldwide.  Stuff refers to itself as the most popular news website in New Zealand and owns key daily newspapers including The Post (Wellington) and The Press (Christchurch) as well as the weekly Sunday Star-Times.  In the press release headed “Tā Matou Pono, Our Truth”,  Stuff apologised for its racist coverage of Māori dating back 163 years: “From the first editions to now, our monocultural lens means we haven’t always fairly represented tangata whenua.  We’ve been racist, contributing to stigma, marginalisation, and stereotypes against Māori.  Ke whakapāha mātou ki te Māori.  We apologise to Māori” (Williams, 2020).  Some Māori did not want to hear the apology, which Stuff’s lead journalist on the project Carmen Parahi found understandable given the historic pain caused (Hayden, 2020).  Research into past and ongoing racism or negative coverage of Māori in the media, and by implication of mātauranga Māori, is not hard to find and illustrates just why this apology was and continues to be necessary, not just from Stuff.  

Ranginui Walker’s (1996) discussion of the role that news media play in defining Pākehā perceptions of Māori was one of several early challenges to the ‘objectivity’ claimed by New Zealand Pākehā journalists.  Walker discussed the 1979 haka-party affair and found sensationalist media coverage showed Pākehā intolerance at being confronted with an alternative view of New Zealand history.  The underlying fear was that Māori activism would generate revolt against Pākehā dominance.  Similar sensationalist framing of mild protest activity at Waitangi in 1981 as a ‘full-scale riot’ in the NZ Herald underlined Walker’s argument that the media supported the position of power elites and reinforced Pākehā hegemony.  Walker also explored coverage of gangs and of decisions by Māori politicians, all of which resulted in a great deal of Māori-bashing over a long period in the media.  Noting the 1985 decision to make the powers of the Waitangi Tribunal retrospective, Walker considered the “achievement of financial power by Māori posed a serious challenge” (p152) to the structural dominance of Pākehā and the related political and social subordination of Māori. These fears were well reflected in media coverage of the time.

Walker’s critique was an early version of many research papers and discussions of racist coverage of Māori in the media in New Zealand.  Scholars including Stuart (1996, 2002, 2005, 2007), Poihipi (2007), Abel (2007), Nairn et al. (2011) and Smith (2011) followed in Walker’s wake reviewing the problems that one-sided media coverage of the day’s issues caused in reinforcing Pākehā ignorance of Māori and the continuing degradation of Māori as a result.  Wall (1997) states it plainly: “Contemporary racialised stereotypes of the Māori, derivatives of their colonial antecedents, are prevalent in the media which reinforces an identity of Māori as the Black Other” (p41).  

Research over the last ten years or so has shown that many of the problems highlighted in this earlier work have continued.  Researchers from the Whariki Research Group conducted a three-year project reviewing representations of Māori in mass media and published their findings in a number of papers.  In Nairn et al. (2012), these researchers report on a direct comparison of stories broadcast on English-language television and their equivalent in Māori-language bulletins, to show how English-language broadcasters consistently prioritise negative stories about Māori as a matter of choice.  Their research showed that it is not just a matter of what is said, but of what is not said, and they show that what is missing from broadcasts strongly influences mainstream audience views by absenting alternative stories.  They found the very small number of stories that featured Māori at all supported the hegemonic narrative of Māori as inadequate and poorly socialised, and identify this as a ‘symbolic annihilation’ of Māori, effectively erasing the presence of Māori as responsible citizens.  This they argue is a serious threat to building an equitable society that gives Māori full participation.  This argument is further explored in Moewaka Barnes et al. (2012) and Rankin et al. (2014) among other papers from this research group.  Moewaka Barnes et al. (2012) sets out themes of anti-Māori discourse in the media, and addresses each theme in turn by presenting an alternative framing: e.g. Pākehā as the ‘norm’ can be counteracted by the conscious framing of Pākehā as one culture among many and/or presenting Pākehā culture as a regional variant of Western culture.  The themes addressed include the nation seen as ‘one people’; Māori being hypersensitive when in fact Pākehā are displaying ignorance; crime as a Māori issue; Māori culture depicted as primitive; whakapapa described in fractions; te Tiriti as historical and a barrier to development, and so on. By examining each in turn, and presenting alternative framings, the authors seek to challenge media producers and their Pākehā audiences to address the social order of the country more honestly by representing Māori more fairly. 

It may be assumed by many that developments over the last decades in Māori-driven media are providing opportunities to achieve fairer treatment in the media.  The Māori language claim (WAI 11) and the resulting declaration of te reo as an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand were paralleled by growing aspirations of Māori in all areas of the media and the passing of the Broadcasting Act in 1989 extended the Crown’s obligation to protect and promote te reo in radio and television.  Ultimately this contributed to the establishment of the iwi radio network (from 1983), the establishment of Te Māngai Pāho in 1993 and Whakaata Māori in 2004.  Yet even with these developments, recent research shows a lack of improvement in terms of fair representation.  Deckert (2020), for example, looks at the coverage of women offenders in New Zealand newspapers over a two-year period. She finds not only that violent women offenders attract more sensationalist coverage than violent men, but that Māori women offenders are seen as more newsworthy than Pākeha women.  Additionally,  Pākehā women offenders are seen in a more positive light, leaving the impression that Pākehā women commit mainly non-violent crimes, which is not borne out by analysis of the actual rates of offending.  Māori women, on the other hand, are ‘demonised’ and their coverage contributes to negative stereotyping, which is especially problematic in a climate of penal populism.  This is a particularly acute example not just of the depth of damage that media stereotyping causes but also its subtlety.  As Pack, Tuffin and Lyons (2016) note, “Racism in Aotearoa New Zealand has been shown to be modern, subtle, symbolic and understated, yet also powerfully prevalent and functional in maintaining Pākehā societal structures” (p85).  

Similarly, Philips’ (2022) big data exploration of print media coverage of Māori, and Daubs’ (2021) review of complaints about the use of te reo in radio and newspaper reporting, reveal consistent othering of Māori and ongoing application of colonialist rhetoric.  There is an absence of nuance which mitigates the breakdown of stereotypes.  However, Daubs does find that use of te reo online does not appear to attract complaints in the same way its use on the radio does, and this is put down partly to the fact that online is the domain of younger people generally. The point is also made that internet communication is fragmented rather than concentrated like broadcast radio and various surveys are also discussed to show the use of te reo is generally supported by more Pākehā than the tenor of the complaints would suggest.

MacDonald and Ormond (2021) consider why the NZ media industry does not respond to racism despite research seeking urgent change.  The authors argue that a racial discourse of silencing sustains colour-blindness in the industry.  This racial discourse is defined as “the collective text and talk of society with respect to issues of race” (p156) which denies the structuring force of colonialism through supporting a historically sanitised view of contemporary Māori-Pākehā relations.  In conceptualising silencing in the media industry, the authors discuss the amnesia of the mainstream (that is, chosen ignorance of historical violence) as a way of establishing settler legitimacy, meaning that for many Pākehā the past is the past and therefore has no impact on the present. The MacDonald & Ormand article refers to an episode of The Project, and then reviews the follow-up experience of the media complaints process. They state that a complaint was made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority concerning stereotyping in terms of the presentation of Māori in an episode of The Project.  The complaint was not upheld, and the researchers looked at the BSA guidelines of Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting, noting that this standard is open to interpretation.  They point to the BSA placing high value on freedom of expression, with intention and extent of negative impact being relevant.  The researchers suggest that the guidelines around this “direct society away from considering how social relations between groups of people are also implicated in the discrimination and denigration of indigenous peoples” (MacDonald & Ormand, 2021, p158).

After consultation with the Broadcasting Standards Authority representatives, during the writing of this report, it was found that the complaint was made to the broadcaster, MediaWorks, not the BSA. The standard process for complaints is for them to be made to the broadcaster first, and then appealed to the BSA if the complainant is unsatisfied with the broadcaster’s response. The broadcaster, MediaWorks’ Standards Committee, did not uphold the complaint and provided the authors with the wording of the BSA’s then Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration Standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code. It does not appear the complainant used their appeal option of taking the complaint to the BSA, but instead, analysed the limitations of the wording of the BSA’s Discrimination and Denigration standard. 

The critiques made by Ormond and MacDonald are similar to concerns the BSA itself had with the standard, which lead to the Authority changing its approach in 2020 to respond to complaints where there was no malice, but the overall effect of the broadcast was to imbed negative stereotypes, as in the case of Waxman and Television New Zealand Limited (BSA, 2020). This change in approach was reflected in the updated Code, released June 2022, which changed the standard:  


The importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in contravention of the standard.


The importance of freedom of expression means:
A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard. Broadcast content which has the effect of reinforcing or embedding negative stereotypes may also be considered.   

In the MacDonald & Ormond article, the lack of malicious intent on the broadcaster’s part is cited as a reason in dismissing the complaint.  However, they note the right to share an honest opinion, freedom of expression, operates even in the context of what might be considered hate speech because hate speech can be framed as subjective.  So, measuring discrimination and denigration then can only be done by assessing the intentions of the individual.  They reference O’Sullivan’s (2011) argument that liberal democracies struggle with notions of collectivity, pointing to a cultural bias they argue is inherent in the BSA approach prior to amending the Code, and how this effectively positions discrimination and denigration as a subjective response.  Their view is that because this is therefore not something that can be complained about (in BSA and broadcaster terms), it therefore perpetuates the racial discourse of silencing. However, recent amendments to the code, as stated above, may go some way to ameliorating this concern.

Issues of the Indigenous-State Relationship in the Media

Hokowhitu and Devadas (2013) use the term the ‘Fourth Eye’ to focus on a number of the complexities that arise at the intersection of media culture and Indigenous lives, including the Indigenous experience of being subject to the media gaze, how media capture and translate Indigenous lives and how Indigenous people use media to “subvert certain modalities of power relations” (p. xv). They pick up on W. E. B. DuBois’ notion of the Third Eye (referencing the representation of minority communities in early ethnographic cinema) but bring in the additional complexity of encounters taking place at the “media-Indigeneity intersection” where Indigenous communities “might challenge and transform dominant power via media technologies” (p. xv), in other words, Indigenous use of the media to generate and support Indigenous sovereignty.  They make the point that with increasing availability of inexpensive technologies of production and distribution, Indigenous use of media have increased exponentially, at the same time as media coverage of Indigenous lives and issues has increased in the mainstream media.  However, reflecting much of the discussion above, they note that coverage by mainstream media generally has little or no cognisance of the Indigenous epistemologies being represented and this reflects the will of the colonial/neocolonial media to “synthesize Indigenous worldviews into meanings understandable to the Western world” (p. xxx).  In New Zealand terms, this reflects Smith’s (2006) argument that the “dominant tendency of mainstream television media is to naturalise the settler-subject in the landscape” (p29).  

Looking more specifically at Indigenous media-makers, Hokowhitu (2013) discusses issues that arise when the production of Indigenous media is funded by the state and points to the resulting institutionalisation or capture by discourses of power that are fundamentally constituted within the nation-state.  He reviews the conscious and unconscious conditions of mutual dependency of the Indigenous-state relationship and maintains that Indigenous media “with radical intent” cannot exist in this state of dependency (p109).  He discusses the need to problematize what is meant by culture in this context and leads to the question “What is the cost of recognition?”, suggesting the cost of taking advantage of neocolonial political structures (eg state funding) may be that the right of Indigenous to construct their own identity from the Indigenous perspective may be lost (p110). 

These were questions being grappled with by Māori filmmakers Barry Barclay and Merata Mita in the 1980s.   Mita’s (1996) paper “The Soul and the Image” echoed the complications that Barclay explored in his book Our Own Image (1990), in which he analysed the limitations of conventional ‘First World’ filmmaking processes when applied to the making of films set in the Māori community, telling Māori stories. Mita dissected the bureaucracy and inflexibility of the Pākehā funding, production, and archival institutions then extant, and her perceptive commentary reflects the particular difficulties Māori can experience as they seek to bring their vision of mātauranga Māori and tikanga Māori to the screen through the range of media used.

Moffat (2020) discusses the same problems of dependence on state funding as experienced by the Sámi people (Indigenous minority in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia).  She argues that the media platforms of the Sámi people are strategically engineered into a precarious position through national (majoritarian) policy, a situation she calls ‘constituted precarity’. Moffat suggests the Scandinavian governments show enthusiastic support for Indigenous media platforms when in fact there is a lack of clarity and commitment regarding ongoing investment.  Relevant factors in the discussion include the colonial politics inherent in the Sámi situation, which continue to marginalise Sámi people economically and politically, despite the fact that like Māori in New Zealand, the Sámi identity and visual motifs are used, at least in Norway, in the nation-building ‘brand’ identity of the state.  Moffat discusses how the relevant Ministry holds the financial reins while expecting Sámi media organisations to reflect the state’s ‘progressive’ attitude toward Indigenous cultures.  She suggests the vulnerability of Indigenous media platforms is not so much a matter of economics but of cultural ‘viability’ and therefore the question of who determines what ‘viability’ is, is a critical question in the ongoing debate about Indigenous sovereignty.

Hokowhitu (2013) explores similar issues from a Māori perspective, referencing various writers’ notions of Indigenous media as automatically positioned in an ‘antagonistic dialectic’ with First Media (media of the First World).  A key question that emerges is “How does Indigenous media not merely reify a Western episteme through brown-tinted glasses?” (p118).  His conclusion points to the solution being to “concentrate on the choice and responsibility of Indigenous communities to represent themselves as they see fit ...” which may mean being uncomfortable because it implies disruption, and requires any definition of Indigenous sovereignty (in media) to be grounded in the concept of Indigenous existentialism (p119). 

Mātauranga Māori in Current Media Practice

While small compared to the number of research papers exploring racism and its implications in the New Zealand media, research papers discussing the theory and practice of Māori media are emerging.   Commenting on Barry Barclay’s film oeuvre, Stuart Murray (2008) writes of it being “informed at a conceptual level by the guiding principles of Indigenous cultures, and (not just presenting) spectacles of the Indigenous presence” (p17), and these following examples similarly reflect work grounded, or seeking to be grounded, in tikanga Māori.

Jo Smith’s (2016) book-length consideration of Whakaata Māori’s first ten years takes a close look at how Whakaata Māori manages differing agendas of practising tikanga in its work while functioning within a media environment where the norms of how television should look and sound are established and dominated by non-Māori.  The expectation is that the network should support the health of te reo me ngā tikanga in a media structure which was not designed for the task.  The service is constrained by a Crown-imposed government structure, varying legislative expectations, varying audience expectations, technological changes, and requirements of production practice not designed specifically by/for Māori.  An additional key constraint is limitation of funding (this can be viewed as reflecting Moffat’s discussion of constituted precarity above).  Smith notes that involving the audience/communities/ consumers to an extent that would constitute genuine manaakitanga and engagement in Māori terms would challenge existing notions of ‘quality’ television, and producing ‘quality’ television is one of the 2003 statutory requirements of Whakaata Māori.  It’s also noted that this type of engagement would require a shift in the expectations that are placed on Māori media professionals.  Producer Quinton Hita is referenced as making the point that a more Māori form of television would reflect “the rhythm, timing and pace of te ao Māori” (p49). 

Such an approach, privileging Māori, would involve more time spent with the community from whom the story emerges, and acknowledge values and issues that may seem to be tangential to the actual story.  All this would likely cost more because of, for instance, added time in preproduction.  Examples from producers include taking the programme back to the people from whom the story comes and sitting with them to view/review it and hear feedback before going to air (points which have been being made by Māori film and television makers since Barclay and Mita’s writings in the 1990s).  Further, the specific language demands made of producers proposing programmes can hamstring the shape of the storytelling: one producer highlights that there is more voice-over in Whakaata Māori programming than there might be if programmes could “just naturally evolve” (Smith, 2016, p60).  Smith canvasses many of the pressures on independent producers, particularly the expectations from funders that producers will build capacity, which is very hard for small, unstable businesses.  The point overall is made that serving the kaupapa of protecting and promoting te reo me ngā tikanga is very hard in a broadcasting model that is not designed with this in mind and a structure which is severely underfunded.  Nevertheless, there is substantial discussion from producers and others about how to revision what constitutes good Māori media and clarity that this would be grounded in connection to whānau and communities and challenge “the aesthetic and production norms of conventional television” (op. cit, p49). 

Middleton has published two recent research papers: one looks at how a Māori journalist balances tikanga with her reporting duties when reporting in the English language (Middleton, 2022); the other looks at how Māori-language current affairs reporters weave elements of whaikōrero into their reporting work while reaching an audience not all of whom are fluent in te reo (Middleton, 2020).  The English-language reporter’s work for Radio New Zealand (2022) shows radio to be, when compared with Whakaata Māori, an easier medium than television in which to juggle the competing demands of te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā.   This paper follows a reporter from the first pōwhiri of her day through to her wrap-up, and discusses the key values of news reporting and how they are observed while operating in te ao Māori.  There is commentary on the use of te reo in the English-language reporting, noting words that are no longer translated because they are now commonly used in te reo Pākehā.  What is revealed is how a Māori reporter brings a Māori lens to her reporting, even when producing stories aimed at an audience that is inclusive of non-Māori as well as Māori.

The discussion of the Māori-language reporters’ work (Middleton, 2020) shows them to be highly conscious of being role-models, and the practical knowledge of whaikōrero or public oratory they apply to their reporting includes use of proverbs, metaphors and references to spiritual concepts.  The structure and length of whaikōrero is detailed and in going through each feature, Middleton relates them to equivalents in the current affairs programmes the reporters work for: for example, Te Karere and Manako often use whakaaraara to open a report as the whakaaraara announces the speaker’s intention to speak on the marae.  Phrases that are esoteric or rooted in tikanga are not directly translated (where English subtitles are used) because subtitles are not the place to translate cultural concepts.  Other aspects of whaikōrero and their use in the programmes are discussed, including tauparapara, mihi, interviewees addressing the dead, kōrero take (where news is discussed and opinions given) and whakamutunga.  This section of the research is very detailed and a valuable explanation of how hosts and journalists on current affairs programmes bring te ao Māori into their work.  Middleton notes that reworking tikanga needs care and quotes Mason Durie (2012) who writes a “theoretical and philosophical base that is derived from mātauranga Māori must be maintained” and this requires “a type of leadership that can mediate between yesterday and tomorrow” (Durie, 2012, p85).  

Attention is now being paid by researchers to both the international reach of Indigenous broadcasters and the commonalities between Indigenous nations.  Burrows (2018) interviewed producers of Indigenous media in several postcolonial societies to explore their perspectives on balancing community responsibilities with journalistic obligations.  Her research points to producers of Indigenous media applying modified versions of objectivity to serve the needs of their communities while pursuing factual, truthful content.  She concludes that impartiality is an undesirable goal for these media producers in terms of producing content relevant to their audiences and they therefore have to navigate a range of tensions to achieve their work. Much Indigenous news coverage is shown to be grounded in challenging mainstream bias and while conventional definitions of objectivity stress balance and impartiality, most interviewees saw their work as not unbiased and impartial but using ethical reporting methods and standards to produce fair, factual, balanced content.  They saw their job as being “conduits for Indigenous truth and resistance” (p1132) and enabling Indigenous communities to challenge the existing hegemonic structures of society.  

De Bruin & Mane (2018) similarly show Indigenous media-makers working on their own terms, serving their own people while also reaching out to other Indigenous communities internationally.  The subjects of this research are those working for Tautoko FM, a Ngāpuhi radio station with now a national and transnational public sphere.  Researchers discuss the changing nature of radio following a global trend “in which indigenous communities have adapted new media technologies to re-centre notions of national identity” (p127).  The establishment of the various iwi radio stations was led by iwi and hapū themselves which is significant in terms of asserting the voice of Māori in the broadcasting landscape.  The researchers make the point that unlike the overriding approach of colonisation which positioned Māori as one nation vis-a-vis Pākehā, the way iwi radio stations have emerged from iwi themselves can be seen as “creating national identities more in line with the Māori worldview than a New Zealand-wide national identity” (p133).  

This sense of media strongly grounded in te ao Māori is the impetus behind Eruera Lee-Morgan’s (2021) thesis exploring the concept of the mauri or life-force in relation to Māori-language media.  He argues that mauri has a holistic importance in sustaining Māori culture, identity, language and people and quotes Huirangi Waikerepuru saying that mauri is the key dimension that connects all living things and this connects te reo Māori in Māori media.  Lee-Morgan reflects Hokowhitu and Devadas’ (2013) argument, that non-Indigenous New Zealand has failed to come to grips with the implications of Te Tiriti, and with an Indigenous population more and more willing to advocate for Māori sovereignty.  He also discusses the differentiation between self-determination and assimilation intent in media culture, echoing Moffat’s notion of constituted precarity as noted above.   In imagining a world where mauri flourishes in Māori media, Lee-Morgan points to Linda T. Smith’s (1999) view that this requires Māori recovering their own stories from the past and this is “inextricably bound to a recovery of our language and epistemological foundations” (p39). 

This review of key literature has addressed first the concept of mātauranga Māori, as the repository of Māori knowledge, and the process through which that knowledge is shared and protected.  It then assessed the prevailing Pākehā hegemony which has traditionally made it exceedingly difficult to achieve any form of fairness in terms of Māori representation in the media in New Zealand.  Researchers have found evidence that racism remains prevalent across the media, and where Māori are taken into account, there is a tendency, as Smith puts it, to “naturalise the settler-subject in the landscape” (2006, p29).  These are issues which play out across the Indigenous world, as Moffat’s and Burrow’s discussions show, despite declared intentions by neocolonial/postcolonial governments.  There are examples though, of growing recognition by government agencies and in the private sector, that change must occur to address the malevolence which Māori have experienced. Also, within this landscape, there are a growing number of places where Māori journalists, content-creators, and media-makers are able to ground their work in te ao Māori and this literature offers a preview of many of the issues that have surfaced in the research conducted for this  project.  

Statutory Review

Review of the statutory and regulatory environment relating to Crown obligations to mātauranga Māori and broadcasting.

The review initially explores the impact of international influences on the broadcasting environment in New Zealand. It then considers the relevant New Zealand acts governing the industry, examining regulations pertaining to broadcasting standards. The discussion further extends to the entities involved in the broadcasting sector, including broadcasters, regulatory bodies, government agencies, and other relevant organisations.

Additionally, the review acknowledges the significance of the Wai 262 report released by the Waitangi Tribunal. This report highlights the relationship between Māori and the Crown, particularly emphasising how Crown entities engage and incorporate mātauranga Māori to varying degrees (Mead, 2022). The review marks the commitment expected from public entities towards mātauranga Māori, emphasising the importance of incorporating Māori knowledge, customs, and perspectives.

International Law

New Zealand originally opposed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007 as it was believed at the time that the Declaration might compromise the government’s approach to Treaty of Waitangi claims, however the government changed its decision in 2010 and has now committed to the Declaration (UNDRIP, 2010). This will give the government an opportunity to be committed to the same Indigenous obligations as other countries under the declaration, and work in partnership with Māori and report on how the Government is fulfilling its obligations under the Treaty and its corresponding aspirations in the Declaration.

The key themes in the Declaration include: 

  • equality and non-discrimination;
  • education, information, and labour rights;
  • rights around lands, territories, and resources; and
  • rights to cultural, religious, spiritual, and linguistic identity, and self-determination.

Internationally, there has been a focus on Indigenous data sovereignty, with groups such as the United States Indigenous data sovereignty network and Maiam Mayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective working towards creating data sovereignty in their respective jurisdictions for Indigenous peoples. There are also a number of sovereignty in their respective jurisdictions for Indigenous peoples. There are also a number of emerging networks including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in Canada, and Sámi/Sápmi in Sweden.

Indigenous data sovereignty is data that is subject to the laws of the nation within which it is stored, and where it is collected. Te Mana Raraunga is the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, which consists of representatives of tribal, business and academic entities interested in data. It is noted that work that has been happening across government on Māori data governance, led by Te Kāhui Raraunga, and the final report on this work has recently been published (Te Kahui Raraunga, 2023).

With regard to international policy, Indigenous data sovereignty is supported by Article 15 of the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): "Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspiration which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information" (A.T.P. Mead, 2022), and the 2008 WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health: A 'minimum Health Equity Surveillance System'. As part of the system, 'good-quality data on the health of Indigenous Peoples should be available, where applicable'.

Aotearoa New Zealand Law

The 1970s up to the early 2000s is often described as the Māori Renaissance (Walker, 1990), during which Māori often protested at political and social levels, for the recognition of certain rights relating to historical and contemporary land grievances and the lack of official recognition of certain cultural rights, including te reo. As a result of this period, many pieces of legislation were enacted to reflect the changing attitudes by government on issues relating to Māori. 

These included: 

  • The Māori Language Act 1987
  • The establishment of the Māori Language Commission, Taura Whiri i Te Reo
  • The Treaty of Waitangi Act (in 1985, where the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal became retrospective to 1940) 
  • The establishment of Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori
  • The acknowledgement and incorporation by central government that adhering to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is important. 

The Waitangi Tribunal report into the Wai 262 claim noted that “every Crown agency that appeared in our inquiry, and most of those that did not, deals with mātauranga to some extent.” (Mead, 2022). Through research into whether the findings in this report had been fruitful, the responses brought attention to the absence of a comprehensive, government-wide approach and policy regarding mātauranga. Additionally, several other concerns were raised, including the limited legislative safeguards for mātauranga Māori and a scarcity of dedicated funding opportunities aimed at enhancing mātauranga Māori.


Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016 Māori Language Act

Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016 Māori Language Act 2016 repealed the Māori Language Act, 1987. That previous Act can be considered the “umbrella” that led to the establishment of entities such as the Māori Television Service. MTS, or Whakaata Māori as it is now known, reflects private-public governance, a Māori-Crown partnership. at the board level. 

Section 8 outlines the principles which guide the interpretation of the Act, and the development of required Māori strategies. Knowledge and use of the Māori language are promoted by an active partnership of the Crown with iwi and Māori through Te Mātāwai (Maihi Māori), as well as a focus on the Crown being able to advance the revitalisation of the Māori language by promoting strategic objectives in wider New Zealand society. 

Broadcasting Act 1989

The Broadcasting Act 1989 is also key to the statutory environment. This sets out the general grounds for complaints, but the sections relevant to this review are s 20 outlining the establishment of the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), as well as the establishment of the Broadcasting Commission. In regard to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, s 21 establishes the functions of Authority:

  • To encourage the development and observance by broadcasters of codes of broadcasting practice appropriate to the type of broadcasting undertaken by such broadcasters, in relation to;
  • safeguards against the portrayal of persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, race, age, disability, or occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural, or political beliefs (Broadcasting Act, 1989; 1989, May 27).

This Act imposes an obligation on the Broadcasting Standards Authority to combat racism in general, but it lacks express provisions for the inclusion of mātauranga Māori. However, through the BSA Statement of Intent 2020-2024, the Authority are exceeding their regulatory obligations and holding themselves to a higher standard where they are “cognisant of their [our] responsibility to consider te ao Māori and respect and uphold te Tiriti o Waitangi in our work” (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2020). In this report, the BSA have also outlined their operating environment, where they will “continue to seek guidance to build our cultural capability and reflect their [our] commitment to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi and Maihi Karuana” (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2020). Throughout the complaints’ determination process, the BSA indicates that when relevant they undertake cultural advice or research on issues. 

While these commitments may not carry regulatory weight, the Broadcasting Standards Authority believe that their structure, process, practices, and overall content are robust with respect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and mātauranga Māori. This has been demonstrated in the “Language That May Offend in Broadcasting (2022)” publication. They also carry out independent reviews of previous decisions made. The independent reviews are carried out on all standards but will usually focus on issues and standards the BSA finds challenging (i.e., over the last few years there has been a focus on balance and accuracy, with many complaints being Covid-19 related). 

Examples of the BSA demonstrating these commitments can be seen in the KS and Television New Zealand Ltd 2020-135 decision. This concerned a number of complaints received from the public regarding the use of te reo Māori in TVNZ broadcasting. The finding of this decision considered that as te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand, established by the Māori Language Act 1987 (now amended by the Māori Language Act 2016), a complaint about the use of te reo Māori does not raise any issue of potential harm as envisaged by the standards (Authority, Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2021). 

The Broadcasting Commission, more commonly known as NZ on Air, is established through s 35 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, with s 36 giving clarity around the functions of the Commission, with the primary function of the Commission being to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture by:

  • Promoting programmes about New Zealand and New Zealand interests; and
  • Promoting Māori language and Māori culture (Broadcasting Act, 1989; 1989, May 27).

The Commission shall also under s 37(a)(iii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 consult from time to time with representatives of Māori interests. In comparison to the regulatory obligations of the BSA, there is a larger inclusion of Māori interests within the statute and this is further reflected in the NZ on Air Statement of Intent 2021-2025, where they describe their mission being “to foster and fund great NZ media content that reflects the diverse communities of Aotearoa” (Motu, 2021). It is clear that they understand their responsibility to promote te reo Māori and tikanga Māori (Motu, 2021), as a Crown entity that is in charge of funding support for broadcasting and creative works. 

To enhance the Commission’s approach and capability relating to mātauranga Māori, there are several practical steps that could be considered. First, an internal review should be undertaken to assess the Commission’s consultation practices concerning te ao Māori matters. The review should look at the composition of the Māori advisors the Commission consults with, considering factors such as age, gender, and tribal affiliation, ensuring a diverse and robust range of Māori perspectives. 

Additionally, the Commission could organise annual hui with specific groups to gather the latest updates and perspectives on te ao Māori and mātauranga from Māori organisations. These groups may include Te Hunga Rōia (Māori Lawyers Association), Ngā Aho Whakaari, Te Mātāwai, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Māori representatives from the broadcasting sector such as Te Māngai Pāho, Whakaata Māori and Television New Zealand, as well as a selection of Māori leaders, representing iwi and industry.

To ensure transparency of information the Commission could publish a separate report on te ao Māori and mātauranga either annually or bi-annually. This publication would encompass the outcomes of the consultation process mentioned, offering the latest thinking and positions adopted by the Commission. It could also include any decisions that the Commission has had regarding these matters. This approach would facilitate the sharing of knowledge and promote ongoing engagement with the Māori community. 

Human Rights Act 1993

The Human Rights Act 1993 could also apply to the protection of mātauranga Māori in the broadcasting and media sector via s 61 regarding racial disharmony. Section 61 states that it shall be unlawful to broadcast by means of radio or television or other electronic communication, being matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons (Human Rights Act, 1993). 

Section 131 of the Human Rights Act, which looks at inciting racial disharmony, gives more clarity to combat general racism within New Zealand, “Being matter or words likely to excite hostility or ill-will against, or bring into contempt or ridicule, any such group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons, commits an offence.” (Human Rights Act, 1993). This highlights the fact that inciting racism within New Zealand will lead to an offence and on the subject of increasing mātauranga Māori in the media, it is important to understand that there are statutory obligations in place to prevent New Zealand from suffering racism as te ao Māori looks to grow in the media. 

To ensure compliance, the Human Rights Commission plays a crucial role. Committed to upholding te ao Māori in their work, the Commission holds government and businesses accountable for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and human rights for all individuals in New Zealand. A significant figure in the enforcement of these provisions is the Race Relations Commissioner, one of whom, Meng Foon, made history as the first non-Māori mayor in New Zealand to be fluent in te reo Māori. This is a significant acknowledgement of te reo Māori, despite the acrimonious resignation of Foon from his role as Race Relations Commissioner in June 2023. 

Education and Training Act 2020

The Education and Training Act 2020 also deserves some consideration due to the role it plays in the statutory environment of Māori and the media. The Tertiary Education Commission is established under this (s 401) which is responsible for planning, funding, and monitoring in the tertiary education sector, and it clear that the development aspirations of Māori and other populations is part of the long-term strategy (Legislation, Education and Training Act, 2020). This is relevant as journalism schools such as Ara – NZ Broadcasting School are captured under this strategy. Ara – New Zealand Broadcasting School formally endorsed the Framework for Māori Achievement in 2019 and officially launched in 2020. We do not make any comment on the substantive nature of the framework or how effective it is with respect to te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori.

Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015

The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 serves the purpose of deterring, preventing and mitigating harm caused by individuals through digital communications, outlined in s 3. The communication principles are set out in s 6, with the principle of most relevance being Principle 10, “A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability” (Legislation, Harmful Digital Communications Act, 2015).

With this provision, there is potential for enforcement against inappropriate publications concerning Māori issues under the Act. However, it is worth noting that the Act has a broad scope, which may make it challenging to hold offenders accountable for inappropriate conduct related to mātauranga Māori issues in the media. The Act’s effectiveness in addressing such specific concerns may require careful interpretation and application by relevant authorities and legal frameworks. 

Other Entities

Whakaata Māori (Māori Television)

Whakaata Māori (Māori Television) is established through the Māori Television Service  (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003, with the principle function of the Service being to contribute to the protection and promotion of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga Māori and English that informs, educates, and entertains viewers, and enriches New Zealand’s society, culture and heritage (Legislation, Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act, 2003). As can be expected, Whakaata Māori have what can be regarded as the highest statutory inclusion of mātauranga Māori, as this is the primary purpose of the entity, but similar clauses and purposes could be further emulated into other entities, with the goal of boosting te ao Māori from a statutory level. 

Television New Zealand (TVNZ)

As TVNZ is a public entity, it is established under the Television New Zealand Act 2003 and as set out above, “deals with mātauranga Māori to some extent” (Mead, 2022). This is elevated by s 12(2) of the Act, stating that in carrying out its functions, TVNZ must provide high-quality content that encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives (TVNZ, 2003). This regulation is further affirmed in the TVNZ Statement of Intent 2020-2024 as they focus on normalising Māori content in mainstream content, and promote its usage through the organisation (TVNZ, 2020).  

Te Māngai Pāho

The Crown entity Te Reo Whakapuaki Irirangi, also known as Te Māngai Pāho plays a key role within the Māori media sector, with their primary role being to promote Māori language and culture by funding the production and distribution of te reo Māori content, Māori cultural content, and Māori music to diverse Māori language audiences (Broadcasting Act, 1989; 1989, May 27). Te Māngai Pāho plays an integral role in the growth of mātauranga Māori in the media as they have a direct influence with funding support.   

Radio New Zealand

Radio New Zealand is established under the Radio New Zealand Act 1995, and under the Charter identified in the Act, the company must endeavour to provide services of the highest quality, among which is to reflect New Zealand’s cultural identity, including Māori language and culture (Legislation, Radio New Zealand Act, 1995). Although this is a principle-based approach and it can be contentious to argue whether this is being achieved, they released their strategic objectives through the Statement of Intent 2022-2026, one outlining that they wish to embed the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi throughout RNZ and in all their services and functions (RNZ, 2022).

Radio New Zealand has done a good job of normalising te reo on mainstream radio, particularly because Pākehā presenters are speaking. The current chair of the Board, Dr Jim Mather is Māori, a previous CEO of Whakaata Māori, specialises in te reo Māori and Treaty of Waitangi training. 

Stuff New Zealand

Stuff is a valuable demonstration of the changing environment in the media regarding mātauranga Māori. As Stuff is a private entity, there is no express statutory regulation to put Stuff under an obligation to include te ao Māori in their work, but since 2020 the company has made a commitment to include mātauranga Māori after releasing an apology statement (Parahi, 2022). This set out a Charter that Stuff will abide by, laying out their commitment to “redressing wrongs and to doing better in future ways that will help foster trust in their [our] work, deeper relationships with Māori, and better representation of contemporary Aotearoa.” (Williams, 2020). Stuff is an example of a private company within the media sector that has embraced the Treaty of Waitangi principles and is attempting to understand mātauranga Māori matters better. 

New Zealand Media Council

The New Zealand Media Council (NZMC) is a private entity dedicated to upholding standards in the New Zealand media industry and promoting freedom of speech in the country. It operates similarly to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, employing a soft enforcement approach compared to the Human Rights Act jurisdiction that enforces appropriate broadcasting. The NZMC has established a set of principles and standards, outlined in the Statement of Principles, which many governmental and non-governmental entities have agreed to abide by.

One particularly relevant principle in the NZMC's framework is principle 7, which addresses the topics of Discrimination and Diversity. According to this principle, “Issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, and publications may report and express opinions in these areas. Publications should not, however, place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting.” (NZMC, 2023).

It is important to note that while principle 7 allows for discussions on discrimination and diversity, it should not be the main issue within a publication complaint. The principle discourages publications from placing undue emphasis on any particular category. This aspect may pose challenges in terms of enforceability, as the complaint should focus on instances where “gratuitous emphasis” has been placed on these categories. Nevertheless, there is potential for enforcement under this principle.

The NZMC jurisdiction and influence extend beyond other acts discussed, as many private entities have voluntarily become members of the council, committing themselves to uphold the principles and standards set forth by the NZMC. This broader coverage highlights the significance of the NZMC in maintaining media standards and promoting responsible broadcasting in New Zealand.


This section has canvased the statutory and regulatory environment in regard to Crown obligations involving mātauranga Māori and broadcasting, focusing first on the impact of international influences, moving to relevant statutes that govern the industry and regulations relating to broadcasting standards. The section also discusses various entities that play a key role in the New Zealand broadcasting environment and how they operate within their legal parameters. 

It is crucial to acknowledge that private entities within the broadcasting industry are often voluntarily exceeding their regulatory obligations when it comes to incorporating or acknowledging mātauranga Māori. This is evident through their demonstrated commitment in public statements. While this is a positive development, evaluating the actual performance of these entities becomes challenging, as it is often under a softer principle-based approach, rather than a rigid legal setting.

By continuing to embrace mātauranga Māori, the broadcasting sector in New Zealand can foster a more inclusive, diverse and representative environment. This commitment is essential to ensuring that Māori perspectives are valued and accurately portrayed in the media landscape, aligning with the broader goal of recognising the significance of mātauranga Māori in New Zealand.  


The findings draw on the feedback from participants, which are presented in a narrative format, rather than the usual academic prose, in part to acknowledge the voices and mana of those who contributed their time and mātauranga to this study, but also to reflect the story-telling ethos that underpins Māori engagement in the media. Each section is based on the questions, but often they formed the basis for a more in-depth kōrero about individual experiences and hopes for the protection and enhancement of mātauranga Māori.

Defining Mātauranga Māori

We focused first on what the appropriate treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media might look like, particularly around the use of te reo Māori and other taonga, which evoked responses around what mātauranga Māori meant to respondents and how they defined it. This discussion also included tikanga and mātauranga, which led to examples of how they saw mātauranga used or addressed in the media. For the purpose of protecting the anonymity of respondents, the following quotes are not attributed. 

Respondents gave a range of views of what mātauranga meant to them, eliciting profound insights into the phenomenon, beginning with the recognition that, “te reo and mātauranga are taonga”, and as such, were guaranteed protection in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  It was also noted that “it depends on the context, mātauranga is the full gambit of our language, our customs, practices and beliefs, education and cultural systems”, and “it is about being Māori, it is contextual and relational, including a sense of the tangible and intangible”. Another referred to mātauranga Māori as ‘kōrero tuku iho’, and that mātauranga Māori is an academic term, whereas, in pure Māori terms, we will use kōrero tuku iho to keep it sacrosanct, in its own context”.

There was a strong sense from many that mātauranga is tribally distinct, one stating, “I always like to think that authority, knowledge holders of mātauranga, lies within iwi, hapū, and whānau, and they recognise who our mātauranga holders are”. Another asked, “where's the source of this knowledge? We pay reference to our parents, our grandparents, in terms of wherever that gem has come from, the gems of mātauranga Māori, we have to reference our tupuna, and we have to reference ngā kete e toru”. This notion of connection to our ancestry was seen as a fundamental component of mātauranga, or taonga tuku iho, like ngā kete e toru, which was also reflected in comments. For example, one stated, “Mātauranga is all about connection, tikanga is all about connection, relationships, responsibilities, I can't live well in the world as a Māori unless I understand manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, whanaungatanga”. For another, it was, “The Māori perspective, or Māori worldview, that is shared from generation to generation and through whakapapa… you can have a person who has acquired the language recently, but if they don't have that connection back to their whakapapa and heritage and received mātauranga Māori, kōrero tuku iho, to help give expression to that language, then that's a component missing, the lived te ao Māori experience”.

To further reiterate the notion of connection, and tikanga embedded in mātauranga, one person said “Manaakitanga, the guiding principle, not manaaki in terms of mere provision of hospitality, but all actions being ‘mana-enhancing’ of others, anything that we do that enhances the mana of other people, not expecting return, moves us from that transactional model, using love and customs around gratitude and sharing and generosity.” For another, “Everything in te ao Māori starts with the beginning, te tīmatanga, te kore, ki te pō.  Whakawhanaungatanga, forging connections and building relationships, and mātauranga being bound to, “whakapapa… not just about blood relations, but being able to find your tribe”. This was further expressed as, “Feeling the vibration of this whenua, the mauri, even if people can't articulate it, they will feel it”.

Thus, we found that mātauranga is deeply imbued in Māori identity, that tikanga are an expression of mātauranga, that there are tribal variations across whanau, hapū, and iwi, and taken as a whole, mātauranga is sacrosanct and must be protected. There was also a sense from some that the term, mātauranga, is not the only way to define the phenomenon. For these, the notion of ‘kōrero tuku iho’, words handed down, is a more succinct expression of ancient knowledge bequeathed by our ancestors, and that the term ‘ mātauranga Māori is more contemporary, more ‘academic’, or used in government circles. This sense was further deepened when we discussed the treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media.  

Treatment of Mātauranga Māori in the Media

When we asked about the appropriate treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media, we drew a range of perspectives, some of which illustrated the benefits of getting it right, whilst others highlighted their experiences of the impacts of getting it wrong.

Positive Treatment of Mātauranga

It was recognised by many, and encapsulated by one, that, “Māori media, does a really good job. It protects mātauranga Māori. It talks about these things in a Māori context and doesn't take things out of Māori context. It has an appreciation of the mātauranga and the people who are the custodians of it. Māori media know who the experts are”. Furthermore, it was noted that, “The core responsibility is to pay attention to the values and to the tikanga that underpin mātauranga… any pursuit of mātauranga Māori is pointless and shallow without respect for the values and tikanga”. Historic examples of the individuals and productions that contributed to this ethos are cited in Henry & Wikaire (2013) and Milligan (2022), illustrating the clear link between activism, story-telling, mātauranga Māori, and Māori media, from the first Māori photographer and film-maker Ramai Hayward in the 1940s, to the creation of the Māori Television Service in 2004, as an outcome of the Te Reo Māori Claim, WAI11.

In summary, it was found that there is a need to strike a balance between acknowledging the historical under-capitalisation of Māori in the media, and highlighting the achievements and progress made thus far. We also need to stress the significance of government and community cooperation in order to sustain and grow current initiatives. There is also a need to acknowledge the increased representation of Māori voices in the mainstream and Māori media, who stand on the shoulders of these pioneers.

However, one speaker went on to caution that, “we must move to a state where these things, karakia, kōrero, and so forth are a normal part of the mātauranga that everyone participates in and partakes of”. Thus, not only are Māori media practitioners protective of mātauranga in its many forms, there is also recognition that, “appropriate treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media is about relationships, about tikanga, the appropriate use of te reo, and bringing the right people around the kaupapa”. For another, there was the acknowledgement that, “broadcasting is a very powerful platform to portray mātauranga Māori, to maintain mātauranga Māori, and to provide mātauranga Māori just like it is with te reo. But it's about having the quality people in place to be driving it”. Those with expertise are the kaitiaki of mātauranga in media, “and mātauranga Māori in the media, is very important, the kaitiakitanga of what we're doing, so that the next generation will have access and use and hopefully have better opportunities to create authentic content”. Ultimately, it was acknowledged that holding fast to the tikanga is imperative, and that “ mātauranga Māori, what we are prepared to share, through some amazing wānanga, amazing people, they can instil the teachings in a way that anyone can take it on-board".

A number of those spoken to referred to key elements that enhance mātauranga. For one, it came down, “to three concepts; whose mana, whose authority, what Barry Barclay called mana tūturu is protecting the mātauranga; tapu, who is taking responsibility, not just for the sacredness of mātauranga, but the process of how we look after it; and kaitiaki, referring to the responsibility of the individual to be a guardian, or hungatiaki [1], with collective responsibility for protecting the taonga and mātauranga”. This notion was extended by another who referred to the need to ensure the, “hauora [wellbeing] and haumaru [safety] of mātauranga, and being hautipua [the best ancestor for future generations]”, as three things which are important to preserve mātauranga Māori.

There were also cautionary notes shared, among them, the recognition, “that we understand where it's going to be used, what it is that is being conveyed, what is mātauranga, and how should it be dealt with appropriately”. Another stated that, “ mātauranga Māori encompasses almost everything we do as Māori in terms of telling stories, in terms of giving a perspective and understanding the world. When it comes to the media and the work that we do, then it comes back to, who are the people we’re asking for the story, and who is controlling the story”. One of the participants, “would always reference someone who had better knowledge than me, and not be afraid to ask, what's tūturu about this kaupapa, what is the purpose of us shooting a certain way”. Yet another made the comment that, “I’ll always compare Māori production to a marae, everyone on the marae has an important job”. Also, in terms of production, it was noted that, “It's taking the time to understand the background to the story, not just doing it once over lightly and disconnecting ideas, getting names right, the pronunciation and spelling right. Whatever is done, it also has to capture that local voice”. One person recognised the specific skills of Māori crew, noting, “I also found it useful when dealing with people from other indigenous cultures. Because you have been brought up as Māori, I've always found Māori crew are very sensitive to other people's cultures. For people who've been colonised like us, they're used to being trampled on, or their culture ignored, so they're really appreciative when we make an effort”.

On a more positive note, one referred to the quality of the Māori productions, stating, “The reason they’re successful is, yes, they have a unique cultural perspective, but it's also, they're fantastically good films”. Another compared Māori media to kapa haka, “it started small, it took decades to knock itself into the shape that we know of as kapa haka, and I'm sure the same will happen with Māori film”. And another stated that, “the spill-over effects, and the increasing role that Māori now play in international media, particularly film, gives us an opportunity to honour rangatira such as Merata Mita, Barry Barclay, Don Selwyn, Wikuki Kaa and so many other great ancestors of our industry. Positioning mātauranga Māori media as a unique contribution to our culture and standing, in an international context, is an important contribution”.

However, there was the ongoing tension around sharing mātauranga, as noted by one, “It's a fine line between incorporating things like te reo, and giving Māori names for example, to a tari kawanatanga, not to replace the mana of te ao Māori, hapū, and iwi, and see there's a cost for its use”. This was also a tension for those working with limited budgets, for example, “we know how to mobilise, and we know how to make things out of crumbs, but the reality is, the consequences of that puts a strain on relationships, a strain on families. So there's two things, being able to provide for our whānau, and the second is being able to contribute to the society that our kids will grow up in”. This thought was reflected by others, one of whom noted, “For using your mātauranga Māori, there should be a fee, it's not as if this just landed in our heads, it is a lifetime of wānanga, a lifetime of mātauranga, and you want us to come over and put a sprinkle over here and a sprinkle over there for free, nah”. Another stated, “using your knowledge of mātauranga as a product, I completely understand the concerns, but at the same knowledge of mātauranga as a product, I completely understand the concerns, but at the same time, why be whakamā, if you can feed your family on the basis of your mātauranga, that to me is amazing”. Finally, those involved in iwi radio also recognised the significant role, because, “iwi radio is working with Māori communities to look after their own taonga tuku iho”, and that, “iwi radio stations are constantly promoting the use of te reo Māori. Not only is reo tapu on our marae, in our gardens, and through cultural aspects of our life but we are making it a living language”.

Taken together these views refer to the positive contribution that Māori media across multiple spheres and platforms, make to the protection, enhancement, and ongoing sustainability of mātauranga Māori, not only in the media, but for wider Māori society and for future generations. These ideas were contradicted by some of the challenges encountered for mātauranga Māori, and Māori people in media.  

[1] Hungatiaki was a kupu used by a participant from Te Arawa, a term unfamiliar to the authors.

Challenging Treatment of Mātauranga

A number of views were previously presented that highlighted the appropriate treatment of mātauranga Māori in the media, primarily because of the influence of Māori in media, but also recognising allies who supported Māori aspirations. Alongside these were alternative views, that articulated challenges for Māori media. This is illustrated most poignantly by the statement from one that, “I'm very interested in mātauranga Māori, from the point of view of the validity and legitimacy of our cultural frameworks and framing. I feel protective about how that might be used and made vulnerable through different platforms, including in media, to ensure that whoever is doing the talking, knows what they're talking about, that they are not just co-opting, or commodifying mātauranga Māori for their own benefit”. Another referred to the need to safeguard mātauranga, “because we have seen historically, if you take something that you don't know enough about, then you’re putting that kaupapa in danger of getting other people to believe that how you've used it, was the right way, and actually, it’s not”.

Dealing with non-Māori working in Māori media was also discussed, including one example, dating back to the 1980s, “in the beginning of Waka Huia, all our crew were Pākehā, and male, they had no understanding of mātauranga Māori or tikanga Māori. So, you were always explaining to your Pākeha crew all these different things”. A similar sentiment, from a different perspective, and in the contemporary context notes that, “what we've done as Māori in broadcasting, all of that work on ourselves, it hasn't been easy. We've had to really challenge ourselves, started going in there with open hearts, being proud of who we are as Māori, but we've come up against the same barriers constantly”. 

Among these barriers, about which one respondent explicitly stated, “racism is real in the media industry, though key appointments are now attempting to address this, because in recent years there's been a lot of discussion internationally, about minority portrayals and rights in the media”. Those negative attitudes were also apparent, “on social media, I've seen lots of very angry rants from non-Māori about what mātauranga Māori could mean. A lot of it has been quite derogatory. I think there's a lot of misinformation out there, and I don’t think mainstream media are particularly helpful”. This view is reinforced by another, stating, “the nature of media is very broad strokes, they want as big an audience as possible. But, when you're dealing with mātauranga, and the context that it has within New Zealand society, it is not compatible, with cultivating a healthy environment for mātauranga to thrive, to be authentic, and to be more than just a tokenistic gesture”.

That perspective is further reflected in the view that, “the Māori media is about us, for us, and with us, and trying to protect that kind of stuff, but, what normally happens though, is that when it becomes a bit more prominent, the Pākehā media goes and gets a Pākehā to give their views”. On a more personal level, one noted their experience of a, “very well-known and successful non-Māori screenwriter, who when I criticised a script that he had written that had Māori elements, railed against me saying, that ‘he was the author of this piece’ and that was ‘his view of the world, but I said you're reflecting Māori elements in an inaccurate way”. Even positive changes can be seen to have a negative consequence, as noted by one who said, “the prevalence of te reo has grown exponentially over the last twenty years, and when it is presented in the 6 o’clock news, it’s great, but it’s also superficial, I reckon that sometimes does more harm than good, for the public understanding of what mātauranga is, and what its potential is”. This suggests that, broadcasters could usefully offer further support for their on-camera presenters to learn te reo Māori. 

Taken together, these negative experiences of the way mātauranga and Māori people have been treated in mainstream media has been hugely problematic for many of the participants. There was also the perception that these issues continue to arise because of the underlying imbalances around who and what makes key decisions impacting on Māori in the media. For example, one noted, “I was in a session, and it was with journalists. I looked around at these very Pākehā faces, from these very Pākehā organisations, and they were saying, ‘our job is to use data responsibly’, and I thought, that's bullshit”. Whether or not that is an accurate view of the Pākehā journalists, there is a clear sense of antipathy between some who were interviewed, and the mainstream media. Another stated, “whatever the rights or wrongs of a Māori individual's actions, the alacrity with which the media pounces on to things like that show, if it bleeds, it leads”. Or, even more painfully, “they have this base of people who have been fed that the ‘Māori are lazy’, so there's incorrect history that needs rebalancing, a reset of what the default racist position has been in New Zealand media”. Yet another view on the negative perceptions about Māori in the media comes from a belief that, “there are those that can see that the world is changing, and they’ve become incredibly defensive, they put up these pā tūwatawata, there’s fortified defence around them. It is absolutely racist at its heart, and that somehow, we have to stay down and be inferior, so that it makes them feel safer”. 

For many, the blame for these ongoing challenges that mātauranga Māori in media faces, has been laid with government policies and funding. As stated by one, “systemic issues within the television industry, and public funding policies, are to blame, as well as the decision-making of commissioners who want commercially viable productions. Those are the two issues that have held mātauranga Māori back and its representation in the media”. Still another noted that, “some of the frameworks in the industry, they're being created to suit the industry. But it also tells you who wasn't in the room, to actually give you the information or the mātauranga Māori to input into the policy”. There was also a sense of frustration around, “why would we engage in a mātauranga Māori strategy in media, it is a one-way broadcast, and one of the key things about mātauranga is that it's a reciprocal relationship”. For another, “the fight to get Māori in the media sector, to get Whakaata Māori up and running, to get films and dramas being made on smaller budgets, when what we really need is more equity and parity”. This view was also reflected in radio, one stating, “Iwi radio needs better funding, better resourcing, better support. And at the moment, you have to jump through quite a lot of hoops, to get funding, to be accountable for it. We’ve got multiple tribes, multiple hapū, multiple community organisations that you bring together, in a really innovative way, but we are still heavily reliant on government handouts”.

There were, however, also suggestions for positive change, including the idea that, “when I think about the treatment of mātauranga Māori within the media, it's having a set of frameworks that we can develop, that are bespoke. Māori, we've pulled ourselves out of a colonised state within broadcasting, to reach a state of absolute understanding of the way things could work better, it is about better engagement, better processes”. On that point, another stated, “I think you need to have Māori in those key roles in organisations, and then get mātauranga experts in, so they can wānanga with senior management”. Still another reflected that change should not just rely on broadcasting policy, “when you think about mātauranga Māori, it's not just up to the media sector, education has to be a part of this discussion and therefore resourcing”. Although, there was also the personal experience of one who said, “when I am in the minority in governance, and I'm the only person of colour, I am always walking on eggshells, because of the fear that other members, who are not bicultural or bilingual, don’t understand me”. Ultimately, the challenges and the challengers asked similar questions, because, “Māori are making a concerted effort to try and translate stories from English to Māori, and all of that is great, but actually, all we're doing is translating a Western view into te reo. When we think about a Māori perspective and a Māori voice, how are we achieving that?”. This is a question that was espoused in a number of different ways, and is somewhat beyond the brief of this study, but most certainly worth further research.  

Evaluation of Good Practice

The respondents shared a number of strongly held views about how good practice in the media could be evaluated, some of which were well thought out models and frameworks. At the outset, it was recognised that, “there's no unified government plan for Māori content because it's spread across New Zealand On Air, Te Māngai Pāho, and the Film Commission and what's really tricky is that there's a Broadcast Minister, a Minister of Culture and Heritage, and the Minister of Māori Affairs, all three of those ministers have a say, in this media landscape for Māori production companies, but those ministries don’t have a unified strategy”. One striking suggestion included that idea that, “the key is a Māori broadcasting ombudsman, with specific terms of reference, I don't actually see it as ‘policing’ any wrongdoing, I think that the important aspect of that work is going to be in how it develops things in a more proactive way. The policing can be dispersed across other agencies, but there's a lot of things that we need to attend to around Māori knowledge that are underdeveloped, so it's giving space that's appropriate for mātauranga Māori, as much as waving a big stick, over people who might exploit it. I see the ombudsman as a very proactive, positive role for the development of mātauranga, transforming, rather than decolonising, how we want to realise our aspirations. There might be an incentive pool that the ombudsman is able to disperse to create particular projects and resources around mātauranga”. Others referred to a new centralised entity, as, “a Kāhui, advisory, so that we don't lose knowledge of what has been, but also be open to feedback on what we might want to do moving forward”.

This was further elaborated by one who stated, “it would be a fantastic thing to have a mātauranga Māori Kāhui, who could advise all different sectors like media, like science, like innovation. Why are they all separate, when actually, mātauranga Māori encapsulates it all beautifully?” This was reinforced by another, noting that, “for the mātauranga to be truly verified, in a Māori sense, we need the mana of that mātauranga to be looked after by people who have the capacity to do that, it can't be window dressing. Having a kāhui, is a way of Māori experts working together”. Yet another referred to a ‘whare kōrero’, particularly as the Whare Māori component of the proposed merger between TVNZ and RNZ did not proceed. They said, “a whare kōrero for tangata tiriti and tangata whenua would be ideal, a standalone, independent, authority, protecting Māori language, tikanga, and mātauranga Māori, working alongside Te Mātāwai and Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo, with recognised experts involved”. On a practical level, one suggested that, “a code of ethics might work. Te Mana Raraunga created a code of ethics for data sovereignty, and they did it through a series of wānanga”. Still another idea related to, “the potential for people to be licensed as Māori language and mātauranga, providers. These issues were discussed around the Mataatua Declaration, as part of the Intellectual Cultural Property Charter”. The view that underpinned all these recommendations was that, “the government should allow Māori to do what we need to do. The government has guidelines and policies which are more to enhance and provide a guideline for their organisations, not for Māori. In terms of being kaitiaki of mātauranga, Māori, are already experts. There are recognised people within our communities that have that level of expertise”.

At the community level, and in terms of Māori media and productions, there were also important views and ideas shared. For one, there was the need for, “an oranga plan. Every single tier of your business needs an oranga plan, it is important, because Pākehā don't have to carry what we have to carry. I think is starts up at the top too, whoever is at the helm has to walk that talk, ensuring everyone is well and safe”. For another, “mātauranga should be applied across the board,  from management, it's from the top down, and from the bottom up”. Yet another noted that, “we always need to ensure there is a “korowai of safety” around a shoot”, and, “good practice means, me manaaki, hei te tuatahi, me te tuarua, me te tuatoru, looking after our people, first, second and third, that is what our good practice is”. Another asked, “we think about tikanga, there's tikanga Māori, but there’s also the tikanga of the industry. The industry has protocols, te ao Māori has protocols. At the end of the day, how do we keep everyone safe culturally and commercially?”. For many, there was a recognition that good practice resulted in positive outcomes, “if we have good practice, it means that our people are prosperous, that our people are leading and driving those decisions, that the taonga are recognized, and held and stored for future generations, and that ultimately, we are good ancestors, working with each other in a way that is supportive of our own uniqueness”. 

One final cautionary note, relating to the storage and protection of the taonga was noted, because “archiving Māori footage is an important issue. If there was an opportunity for us to go around the motu, to have a few, big hui, to be able to say, here's all of this taonga. Do we trust it if it was used for these purposes? How do we know how it's going to be used? How do we know if people over in other parts of the world, are going to take that mātauranga and how are they going to utilise it? How do we evaluate this?” The suggestions and frameworks highlighted above may provide a vehicle to protect mātauranga, in a way that brings together tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, in mutually beneficial ways, with the most positive outcomes for Aotearoa. As one concluded, “defining best practice should not be left to the BSA, because I am not sure the BSA handles Māori complaints properly now”. If that is the case, there needs to be an openness to exploring new and innovative techniques, that centre Māori expertise and leadership, in the protection of mātauranga Māori.

Mātauranga Māori and Education

Though not explicitly sought, there emerged a range of views about the role of education and professional development relating to better understanding and protection of mātauranga, and where improvements could be made. One comment was particularly insightful, “in Hirini Moko Mead’s new book, he comes to the conclusion that ‘ mātauranga Māori’ is a term now owned by the Ministry of Education”. This could be construed as a somewhat cynical view, but it is also a cautionary note, that as government agencies seek to develop strategies to protect Māori knowledge, they do not do so in a way that disempowers Māori and that knowledge. What was important for many was highlighted in the statement, that, “we are still in the throes of growing our own capacity as a people. There's not enough teachers for all the kura. There's not enough ‘Panekiritanga’ for all the deep wānanga”, and another said, “it's not only affecting the education sector, it's affecting the media sector as well, we don't have enough graduates; and good comms people in the public sector are hard to find, we need to fix the supply chain of Māori experts”. This need was counter-poised by another, who acknowledged the work of, “MoE and TEC, but for those of us working in the Māori language space, having a coherent strategy, which is implemented in a coherent way, is a real challenge because everybody wants to do their own thing. The Public Service Commission says that all public service agencies need to improve their te reo Māori capacity. Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo comes up with a plan for language planning, but that further damages the pipeline. Because when you look at it, our gold comes from our kōhanga, kura, and wānanga. When we look at the numbers, about 25% of our mokopuna are going into the kōhanga system, and only 4% are coming out the other end. That tells us that the pipeline is not as strong as it could be. And with that strategy for the public sector, we ‘rape and pillage the pipeline’ to get teachers and cultural advisors. We need more gold coming out of the pipeline, we need to innovate in that space”.

It was noted that, “there is a lot of talent coming from Kura Kaupapa Māori entering mainstream university and other tertiary institutions, that we need to tap into. They display the kind of personal attributes, that would make a great reporter”. These graduates are examples of a tūturu Māori system of education, which requires that, “whatever there is, in terms of tikanga and mātauranga, must be developed and designed by Māori, conducted by Māori, with deep understanding, which can improve education for non-Māori, and others who will utilise it”. One suggestion recommended looking at, “micro credentialing mātauranga. Not just as a body of knowledge, but as a model of learning that is taken from kura and incorporated across a wider education, you give people little wins, it also gives them credits, incrementally, and they can then carry that into the workforce”.  For Māori, we like to upskill ourselves, learning and education contributes to mātauranga, and it is also an opportunity to develop the pūmanawa of a person”. But, knowledge about mātauranga, like learning te reo, can be traumatic for some Māori, because, “there's a bigger conversation to be had about mātauranga, not just for those that hold the knowledge, but for those who are on the outside, looking in, pleading, help me understand who I am in this world”. This view was echoed by another, who said, “if we don't have our own space, don't have our own methods of training, that are true Māori-based, then we're just carrying on with the same trauma”.

Over and above developing mātauranga Māori education, as a standalone contribution to Aotearoatanga, is also the growing need for, “some transformative changes to the industry as a whole and very basic steps for those who make decisions, to educate them to have a greater awareness of mātauranga”. Another stated, “I don't know that a lot of the boards for these big organisations that control media in New Zealand, I don't think they even have “unconscious bias training”. For another, it was a problem because, “we’re always having to make sure that tauiwi are, you know, we take them by hand, and we embrace them, but we're not afforded the same right”. The view was also expressed that, “educating people takes a lot of effort and energy and we’ve said, ‘okay, you are the barrier, the gatekeeper, you are wilfully ignorant, and the way you look at us sometimes, pleading for us to make allowances for your ineptitude. I just think to myself, I haven't got the energy to take you through this again”. But, from another was the view that, “people can learn to be mātauranga Māori cognisant. I don’t need everybody to be experts. I just want them to be cognisant”. Thus, adequate and appropriate training in mātauranga, for non-Māori, was seen as a priority by many. One possible outcome of good education and professional development was a fundamental change in thinking, as expressed by one, stating that, “those people who have done the work, understand that being Pākehā or tauiwi - they're not threatened by that, they actually own their privilege, they own their understanding of what it means to give tangata whenua that mana motuhake, that rangatiratanga, they become allies. They're few and far between, but those are the ones I put the energy into”. Finally, one asked, “how do you provide appropriate Māori content if there is no appropriate education and training, or insufficient funding to do so? What we have seen is non-Māori, including technical staff, filling the void in order to produce mātauranga Māori content, which may be useful in the short term, but no so in the long term.  

Alongside these sentiments, was the recognition that there are Māori who are beginning their te reo me ngā tikanga journey, as well as their journey into the media industry. For some, the existing media training did not meet the needs of Māori media or protect mātauranga Māori. Once stated, “we’re all trained, this is the way you tell a story for the news, this is the way you make a documentary. But, there's no true Māori method in there”. For another, “when you speak about te reo me ngā tikanga, there are fundamentals and linguistics, and education, but what we do, in the media, really sits in its own hapori, it is our job is to be storytellers, to have different perspectives that sit outside of learning the language, not to teach people what to do or how to say it, those are bi-products, enhancing their lives in reo and tikanga, but actually our job in Māori media is to inform and to entertain”. One, who is involved in media training for Māori, stated, “we've placed the succession-plan at the centre, it's the rangatahi, those that have been brought up with their mātauranga Māori and their reo rangatira intact, and those that haven't, but by virtue of being together, they don't judge each other, they've got the energy, the drive, the smarts, that is what we encourage”.

These thoughts on training and education around a raft of Māori knowledge, from te reo me ngā tikanga Māori, to the broad complexities of mātauranga Māori and kōrero tuku iho, combined with professional development programmes for those in senior management and governance roles across media entities, were highlighted by many participants. However, there was also an acknowledgement that such a comprehensive mātauranga Māori educational strategy should not be developed, delivered or invested in solely by ministries such as Māori Development, or Culture & Heritage. If plans for a mātauranga Māori ombudsman, or Kāhui Mātauranga, or Whare Māori in Media were to progress, then this would be the ideal body to develop the foundations, and provide the expertise, for delivery of such a suite of programmes. Te Māngai Pāho was empowered to provide funding for training, and many respondents saw value in this role being further developed. For this kind of strategy, it was suggested by many that, a whole-of-government approach is called for, which should also involve the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission, both of which have more capacity to resource and invest in such a strategy. This then is the challenge for education and training around mātauranga Māori moving forward.

The Role of the Crown

Another issue that was raised by many participants was the role played by the Crown in the protection of mātauranga Māori in the media. This statement reflects the concern that, “one of the biggest concerns I have around mātauranga Māori is the government's inability to protect the rights of Māori”, expressed by another as, “I'm not sure the Crown has the capability or the introspection that's required to protect mātauranga. I see its role as a supporter and enabler”. One expressed a concern that, “government bureaucrats, who may be white, are now deciding what is Māori and what is mātauranga Māori”. Further, there was the notion that, “Māori terms, Māori concept have been misused. And for mātauranga, that is a consequence I think of government, they've been doing that for many years. They have a policy, or an initiative, and to make it palatable with Māori, they bolt on this Māori lens. But, at the end of it, when we think about Kaupapa Māori, mātauranga Māori, it must be anchoring anything that you're doing, right from the beginning, not halfway through”. This was restated by another as, “You'll often see a Māori initiative, being run by government, or a Māori programme, given a beautiful Māori name, but in practice, it doesn't walk the talk, doesn't embed that whole philosophy into the way that they work”. Again, this antipathy was restated in the notion that, “The Crown have taken all our resources over the centuries, yet we do need to work with them, we need them to be honest when they say they are Treaty partners, there's two peoples in this relationship, not one token-Māori appointed to the Board. And the person appointed is not even appointed by Māori, but by a government department headed and run by Pākehā”. However, one reiterated a point made by Ranguinui Walker, who said, “to have actual transformational change, you need agitators from the outside, protesting and pushing, and you need sympathetic changemakers from the inside, it all comes down to the board appointments”, thus, “even though, government agencies can learn to be culturally competent, they have the greater role, which is to whakamana the people who have those skills, and to resource them”. And, again, “the Crown needs to invest in these experts, and their mana, and their knowledge, to create protocols and strategies, that enhance and protect Māori knowledge”.

In a similar vein, it was stated by one that, “if there is a Māori on the board level, it needs to be transparent as to how they got on that board. They were put on because of their skills, and that's okay, but when there comes a Māori question, then it goes naturally to the Māori in the room and then they may not be equipped with the mātauranga Māori to answer, will they come prepared for those questions, or be allowed to go and wānanga and come back”. Another cautioned that, “it's not the role of governments or government agencies to say who is Māori, the minute we have to try and verify or qualify how much Māori we are, then I think we're just getting back to Western ways of thinking in the media”. Yet another talked about media education for Māori, and their experience of how, “the Crown has a policy they've developed. They ask, how can we tweak it to make it more acceptable to you?’ Rather than sitting at a table, as Treaty partners and working on the scope of a kaupapa, how it might work and how it can be sustained and endured, like for unit standards in Māori media, there’s no groundwork done with anyone in Māori media, no talk about tangata whenua, about the Treaty. At the end of the day, there will be billboards of Māori forestry workers, there won't be billboards of digital content producers in the Māori media”.

Two concluding thoughts worthy of mention, related to how things might change and evolve, and the notion that, “the Crown must not take the lead on this, in fact, maybe the Crown needs to release ownership of some of these terms, because one of the things that we lost, to some degree, with the failure of the merger between RNZ and TVNZ, was the creation of a Māori whare to deal with these issues”. Finally, the recongition that, “it should be mandatory, that we have more Māori representation on the BSA. They come to us seeking nominations and our nominations never get through”. Whilst these comments, when taken out of the wider context of the kōrero, may seem highly critical, they are brought to our attention, because the statements reflect a set of concerns about government policies and practices, but also offer practical ideas for moving forward in a more mutually beneficial way, founded on Te Tiriti collaboration and more mana enhancing relationships.

The Role of Iwi

We draw together this analysis, with a range of comments about the role that iwi play, and might further play into the future, as a Tiriti partner, given that, for many iwi “it was a strategy from the start, for the tribe to embark on a program and a way for tribal members to re-engage with the iwi, through radio and media. We wanted to take responsibility for ourselves, and train our people. It’s about te reo and cultural revitalisation”. Another participant noted that, “Iwi have a role to play in art, there is another sign of a thriving iwi, if you don't have art, there is no way to hold that kōrero, the language”. Thus, there is a view that iwi have a role to play in developing media, and crown agencies could be working more effectively with on such initiatives. 

In terms of productions in tribal regions, it was acknowledged that, “a tribe’s involvement should not be just at the production level, but for the life of the film. When these endeavours are built from the community-up, when they have the support and mandate of the tribe, and when they have a home, then things can be done so much better”. For this participant, a recent example of how this was not achieved, was the cancelling of filming for the international production, Chiefs of War, in the north. According to Stone, “The Northland Advocate understands confusion around consultation between local iwi and hapū groups resulted in the eventual cancellation of filming at the location” (2023). This in turn resulted in a significant loss to the local economy. Thus, the idea was proposed that “we see the partnerships with the Crown, kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga, working together” as a sound premise for further developing relationships between government and iwi. These partnerships could build stronger and more robust frameworks for understanding tribal variations around mātauranga, and working more cohesively to enhance not just mātauranga, but Māori media, and production capacity around the motu.


These findings traverse a multiplicity of topics and perspectives, some beyond the brief of the study, but all pertinent to Māori with expertise in media and mātauranga. This section has attempted to reflect those views with as much clarity and respect for those sharing the views as possible. However, in the following section, we shall distil the findings, and relate them to the specific research objectives that underpin this study.

There is a high level of commitment amongst Māori in media to nurture and protect mātauranga Māori, and all the associated ancient knowledge and knowledge systems that are intrinsic to Māori culture and society. Alongside that commitment, for many, there is a cynicism and sense of dubiousness about the capability of the Crown to deliver appropriate support and protection, and a genuine concern that, if and when the Crown adopted that approach, there is the potential for over-weaning control by government agencies. 

However, optimistic ideas about how Māori might work more effectively with Crown entities, were also presented. These might take a whole-of-government approach, through mana-enhancing partnerships, to create an entity that could provide leadership, alongside guidance across government agencies, on all matters pertaining to mātauranga. This entity would only serve at a national, pan-tribal level in the same way that Te Mātāwai currently operates to protect and enhance te reo Māori. At the local level, there remains a growing need for support for kāinga, hapori, iwi and other Māori groupings to protect their own, unique and distinctive mātauranga and kōrero tuku iho. This too could occur through mana-enhancing partnerships with Crown and private entities. 

Finally, there was a strong emphasis on the need for further training and professional development around mātauranga Māori, Te Tiriti, te reo me ngā tikanga, across the media-sphere. This is particularly true for those appointed to governance roles in agencies that have responsibilities for media and broadcasting. However, many also recognised that such tasks should not just be left to Te Puni Kōkiri and Manatū Taonga, or to Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho. Such a momentous task would need to take a more whole-of-government approach, drawing on the resources of the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, and the Work Development Councils. These entities could work with Māori to develop standards, and micro-credentials, for both tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti, thus better ensuring protection and enhancement of mātauranga Māori moving forward.         


To conclude, the following section will address the specific research objectives, based on the data collected in the above sections:

1. Gain an understanding of the implications and significance of media’s treatment of mātauranga Māori particularly for Māori as kaitiaki of mātauranga Māori, and for purposes of assessing complaints under existing broadcasting standards and informing future discussion, policy, and practices:

The literature and statutory reviews, combined with the findings, have yielded an in-depth understanding of the historical and socio-cultural context, and the legislative environment, alongside community expectations of the implications for, and significance of, media’s treatment of mātauranga Māori, particularly given the role that Māori hold, as kaitiaki of mātauranga Māori.

2. Gain an understanding of whether there is a case for incorporation of additional broadcasting standards or guidelines surrounding the use of mātauranga Māori, whether now or as something that should be promoted in the Government’s Safer Online Services and Media Platforms (SOSMP) review, and, if so, what they might be:

Given the depth and range of perspectives offered by participants, one could suggest there has been a shift in some mainstream media and journalistic attitudes, towards te ao Māori, te reo me ngā tikanga and mātauranga Māori. Though long-term studies would be required to further monitor the media and confirm such shifts, if they are occurring, it is cause for some optimism. We might then conclude that a series of factors are influencing said changes. From the research, we find these factors include: 

  • the growing number of Māori and non-Māori being appointed across multiple media and broadcasting entities, who are knowledgeable about and respectful of mātauranga Māori. Though this needs to increase, it is a positive indicator of change;
  • the increasing number of organisations, within and outside government, that are exploring and addressing their relationship with te ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as a statutory obligation for some, combined with a moral obligation for many;
  • the changing demographics of Aotearoa New Zealand, given estimates from the Social Wellbeing Agency that the “Māori population will grow to close to 20 per cent of New Zealand's total population and one third of New Zealand's children, by 2038”. Thus, Māori must be viewed as an increasingly important political force and market;
  • the work being done by a range of Crown entities on their own approaches to mātauranga Māori. Whilst this occurs against the backdrop of government addressing the findings from the WAI262 and other associated claims to the Waitangi Tribunal, it is indicative of an openness to exploring different ways of working with te ao Māori, iwi, hapori, and communities;
  • the growing numbers of Māori expressing their kaitiakitanga over their own, distinct mātauranga. This can be seen in the tribal and community celebrations for Waitangi Day and Matariki. Further, there is a growing body of publications generated by Māori, celebrating maramataka, kaimāra and mātauranga that are being widely distributed. For example, the Maramataka Māori 2023 calendar was produced in collaboration between Ako Aotearoa and the University of Canterbury, under the guidance of Māori expert, Ngāroma Williams. There is also the previously cited publication, When the Crown Controls Mātauranga, produced by the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, under the aegis of their Kairangahau Māori. As noted in that paper, the Crown has damaged mātauranga and traditional systems of transmission, thus, principled partnerships between Māori and the Crown are called for;
  • the case studies to follow also offer insights into ways that communities and organisations have developed innovative media strategies, often in partnership with, or support from a variety of Crown entities. 

3. Gain an understanding of community expectations around this area:

If the Crown is to better enhance mātauranga Māori in the media, this report recommends working with relevant Māori entities, community, iwi, and in the private sector, to further develop mana-enhancing partnerships. These might include development of specific media projects, but also underpin whole-of-government discussions around protection and enhancement of mātauranga. The feedback from participants recommended that greater protection of mātauranga could be achieved through the establishment of a formal entity to undertake key roles and responsibilities. For the purposes of this study, we have chosen to use the term Kāhui Mātauranga, though a number of other names and identities were discussed. This entity could be modelled along the lines of Te Mātāwai, which has three functions, research, investment, and strategic leadership in the revitalisation of te reo Māori, representing kāinga, hapori, and iwi. A Kāhui Mātauranga could serve similar functions relating to research, investment and strategic leadership in the protection and enhancement of mātauranga, not only in the media, but across wider society, working within whole-of-government relationships. There is potential for this entity to engage in the following, to:

  • work alongside the Broadcasting Standards Authority to assess complaints under existing broadcasting standards, and also to inform future discussions, policy, and practices in this area;
  • provide advice on additional broadcasting standards or guidelines surrounding the use and protection of mātauranga Māori
  • support the Government with the Safer Online Services and Media Platforms review;
  • sit alongside government and other agencies, as Te Tiriti partner, to facilitate the all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori, in an holistic endeavour, particularly as the Crown moves to address the findings and redress for WAI262;
  • work with existing Māori organisations and hapori for the development of protocols and resources to guide broadcasters and the wider media on the application and protection of mātauranga Māori, building on the work of Ngā Aho Whakaari and their publications Te Urutahi Koataata (Haami & Raerino, 2008) and the Brown Book (Henry & Wikaire, 2013);
  • develop, fund, and oversee relevant mātauranga Māori and cultural competency programmes or micro-credentials, working with entities such as the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, and Work Development Councils. A special model would be available for all those entering governance roles in Crown agencies. Other modules could be developed for tangata whenua and tangata tiriti;
  • invest in the development of whanau, hapū, iwi initiatives to revitalise and protect the kōrero tuku iho of those communities.

4. Contribute to delivery of the Crown’s all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori:

The Kāhui Mātauranga would be the ideal partner to assist in the delivery of the Crown’s all-of-government work on mātauranga Māori.

5. Enable delivery of useful guidance to broadcasters

The Kāhui Mātauranga could partner with the Broadcasting Standards Authority, Te Puni Kōkiri, Manatū Taonga, along with the New Zealand Film Commission, and New Zealand on Air, to develop useful guidance. This guidance could service broadcasters, national and international production companies, and a wide range of other types of media entities, e.g., streaming services, online marketing companies, social media platforms, digital gamers etc.

6. Build an understanding of media capabilities in their use of mātauranga Māori across the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s media system. 

The case studies outlined below have the potential to make a contribution, to whakamana and protect mātauranga Māori, and build stronger relationships between Māori, Crown agencies and the media. The models presented below, also offer further pathways, strategies and opportunities to partner with Māori, to create even greater synergies, opportunities and innovations that will not only benefit Māori media, but the wider media-sphere, whilst strengthening the unique and distinctive culture and identity of Aotearoa, for all those who believe that te reo me ngā tikanga and mātauranga Māori, make an important contribution to that identity. Whilst many of those who participated in this study agreed that Māori should take the lead in protecting and enhancing mātauranga Māori, there was equal recognition that such a programme of change would require adequate support for, and investment from Crown agencies, open to working collaboratively with te ao Māori to achieve those outcomes. It is the hope of the authors of this report that embedded within are recommendations and strategies which may contribute to that journey. 

Appendicies – Mātauranga Māori in the Media: Case studies delivering innovation and social impact

Māoriland Charitable Trust

The Māoriland Film Festival was established in 2014 by Libby Hakaraia (Ngāti Raukawa), in her kāinga, Ōtaki, which is also where Te Wānanga o Raukawa was founded. Libby wanted Māori and other Indigenous film-makers to share their stories with her community. According to Scoop, “Since the first festival, MFF has become a highlight event for the Kāpiti Coast, attracting thousands of tourists - both local and international - and millions of dollars into the local economy. Internationally, the festival is now the largest international Indigenous film festival in the world - both in programming and audience” (2023). Over the last nine years, the festival has grown to offer a year-round programme of screen industry focused events, including emerging technologies, lecture series (Native Minds), sound and stage performances, and a full visual arts programme. The Māoriland Charitable Trust is an independent Māori non-profit social enterprise mandated by Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki – the five sub-tribes of Ōtaki. In 2023, Libby passed leadership of the initiative to her niece, and is moving on to other initiatives. The MCT has become a multi-faceted media complex, which, according to their website is committed to creating social, cultural and economic opportunities for their local community, as well as for filmmakers and artists. 

The following is an overview of some of their activities and strategies to date:

  • The Māoriland Hub was established in 2017, in Ōtaki’s largest building on the main street, through the usually quiet seaside town of Ōtaki.
  • In 2022 they welcomed their first Indigenous Filmmaker In Residence, Aboriginal story-teller Leah Purcell, who worked alongside Māoriland Productions to develop and produce Indigenous stories for the screen. 
  • Māoriland Productions works with young film-makers, who become part of the Te Uru Maire: Māoriland Rangatahi Strategy.
  • Te Uru Maire is led by Ngā Pakiaka, a rangatahi film leadership who are based in the Hub. 
  • The focus on youth is also incorporated into MATCH, the Māoriland Tech Creative Hub, fostering digital creative arts and animation, as well as dance, drama and art classes in Te Ara Poi.
  • Reversioning films into te reo Māori is being done through the He Paki Taketake initiative, with the feature film Tama Kaiātea (Astro Kid) being screened at Māoriland Film Festival in 2022.  
  • Fronting the Hub is Toi Matarau, a contemporary art gallery featuring the works of Māori artists from around Aotearoa. The gallery provides the front face of the building. In 2022 the collective of renowned Māori carvers ‘Te Matatoki’ took up a Māoriland Residence to carve pou (posts)to adorn the Hub.
  • In 2021, the Matariki Ramaroa (Kapiti Lights Festival) was established, to create a series of events around the Kapiti Coast to commemorate te tau hou Māori – Māori New Year.
  • At the rear of the Hub is Māoriland Māra (organic gardens) and Māoriland Kai Collective, who are working to transform and support the community through food sovereignty, and teach para kore (waste minimisation) practices.

Māoriland is evolving its ecosystem to connect filmmakers with film audiences and with industry. This Kaupapa Māori ecosystem Puritia was launched at the Ngā Aho Whakaari Screen Symposium in March 2023. According to their website (Puritia, 2023), Puritia enables Māori potential to be identified and developed through film and creative technology. 

  1. The Puritia framework outlines Māoriland Charitable Trust’s approach to talent development and production. 
  2. The Puritia incubator will train Indigenous creatives using the Puritia framework to grow the capacity of the Indigenous screen sector. 
  3. The Puritia platform (to be released in March 2024) will support its users to:
    • Explore the world of Indigenous screen content
    • Connect with Indigenous storytellers and their work
    • Stay up to date with events in the industry and Indigenous filmmakers careers
    • Discuss and share with other interested people
  4. Puritia will connect Māori and Indigenous filmmakers with their communities, audiences, and supporters globally.

Te Hiku Media

In 1990, Te Hiku media was formed to serve the community of Muriwhenua. It is a Charitable Trust setup by the iwi, Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupouri, Te Rārawa, Ngāi Takoto and Ngāti Kahu. In recent years, the station has developed a range of media innovations beyond the realm of an Iwi radio station. For example, Te Hiku Media gained a Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund placement in 2015, enabling Hawaiian engineer/physicist Keoni Mahelona to build science capabilities within the organisation. Then from 2017-2018, Te Hiku Media were recipients of a Ka Hao: Māori Digital Technology Fund, to develop the first te reo Māori automatic speech recogniser in a project titled Kōrero Māori. Te Mātāwai also funded the development of a digital pronunciation prototype for te reo Māori. 

In 2019, MBIE announced a $13 million investment in Te Hiku Media for Papa Reo, a multilingual language platform that will develop cutting edge natural language processing tools, starting with te reo Māori. The tools will enable applications to be built that will ensure all New Zealanders can use te reo Māori when engaging with their digital devices. Led by Te Hiku Media in partnership with Dragonfly Data Science, the research will contribute to the revitalisation of minority and indigenous languages and the indigenisation of digital devices worldwide. Over seven years, the research programme is bringing together data scientists from New Zealand, Cambridge and Oxford Universities and Mozilla, with Māori communities, in a unique collaboration. The proposal aims to establish a multilingual language platform to develop natural language processing tools and methods. This funding, and these strategies have enabled Te Hiku Media to enact mātauranga Māori in the development of digital tools, which they believe contribute to the ongoing survival of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori. 

Te Hiku Media leadership recognise that the majority of their tribal members live outside the traditional rohe, with limited connection to the language and culture of Muriwhenua, so a priority has been to develop an online marae, a whare kōrero, to digitally connect members to their haukāinga. This has involved producing a range of audio-visual media and other entertainment, including Far North Whānau Feud, live coverage of local sports, the tangi of eminent tribespeople such as Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi, and events such as the Ngā Manu Kōrero speech competition, Te Taitokerau Festival, regional Kapa Haka competitions for live and streamed broadcasting. During the early years of Covid pandemic, and the more recent extreme weather events, Te Hike Media, like many iwi radio stations, has played a pivotal role in disseminating information to their communities at risk. Alongside these broadcasting activities, Te Hiku Media maintains a comprehensive archive, which has been enhanced by the development of a taonga management and digital curation system, to ensure kōrero tuku iho that is gathered by whanau, remains a protected taonga for future generations of whanau, hapū and iwi, as an intrinsic example of their commitment to Indigenous data sovereignty.

A raft of innovations have been developed over the last ten years. 

  • The Kōrero Māori speech-recogniser trains computers to understand the spoken language; 
  • Rongo, a free app assists the learner and build their confidence by practicing pronunciation;
  • Whare Kōrero another free app that provides a pathway to iwi radio around the country, and access to all their online resources; 
  • Kaituhi delivers automatic te reo Māori transcription;
  • Papa Reo API is a tool that enables speech recognition and feedback on pronunciation. It also ensuring kaitiakitanga and protection of Indigenous data, protected through a licencing arrangement that ensures Indigenous data sovereignty.  

Looking forward, Te Hiku Media plan to pilot iwi-led data storage, seeking like-minded partners to explore opportunities for cloud-storage, as a service model in which data can be transmitted and stored on remote systems. This could be a shared, iwi network, allowing on-demand access, via the internet, for Māori and iwi to extend their computing capabilities and resources. According to their General Manager Peter-Lucas Jones, “We see this as a way to better realise our indigenous data sovereignty priorities from a haukāinga perspective. Data storage, development tools, networking capabilities, and more—hosted at a remote data centre managed by a cloud services provider that is iwi-led and focused on building Māori capability and development, alongside our ongoing aspirations for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake”

Whitebait Media: Brainbusters in Te Reo

Whitebait Media is a Christchurch based production company owned by Janine Morrell, (Ngāti Kahungunu). The company developed a Rautaki Māori strategy that was considered so innovative that TVNZ asked to use it as a potential template for all production companies going forward. Whitebait produced children’s programmes for many years. They identified trends around the growing diversity of the population, and the need to be partnering with Māori on production and policies. Within the organisation, they enacted tikanga, including the use of karakia, offering te reo and waiata lessons for all their personnel. The presenters participated in te reo lessons, especially for on-screen pronunciation. The strategy also included increasing the use of Māori images for graphics, and phrases and stories that are Māori-centric. 

This strategy has been particularly important with the development of Brain Busters in Te Reo, a show for 9-year olds, for which they partnered with specialist reo expertise, including Stacey Morrison, who introduced them to Ariana Stephens and her company Reo Māori Mai. When it came to developing the curriculum, they found a specialist to write the questions, but then realised the questions might be too academic for the age group. So when we talk about mātauranga Māori, we have to think about the different generations of lived experiences, understand the youngsters, and that the phrases that were being used by university professors and teachers, were not necessarily appropriate for the target age-group. 

Also, it was recognised that to bring one Māori to come in and do the specialist subject can be quite an isolating experience for that person. So, it was changed, to bring a group of students from various kura around the country, so they could come together, to stand strong together. It was reiterated at every stage of the production process that, it is very un-Māori to ask one person to come in and perform or compete and represent all Māori in a conversation about Māori content in a show. It was also found that the same Kura were being approached, to be used as poster children really, to feature in mainstream Pākehā media for their purposes, which was an additional stressor for these kura. They needed to be assured that their students would be cared for, and respected, on their trip to Ōtautahi. 

In terms of production it had been assumed that the presenter, who has been having reo lessons and had good pronunciation, would continue to front the show. But it became very apparent, that would not work. So then a dual-hosted show was developed. The te reo Brain Busters show was considered a success, by the company and the broadcaster. However, it required a significant investment, with fees for te reo translators, question-writers, advisors, which is more than most children’s progammes are allocated. As stated by Whitebait spokesperson, “we’re not bemoaning that at all, it is an important investment, and that priority needs to recognised and be endorsed by funders”.

Te Rito Māori Journalism Programme

Te Rito Journalism Project is a partnership of four media organisations - NZME, Whakaata Māori, Newshub and Pacific Media Network - and backed by NZ on Air's Public Interest Journalism Fund, to establish a cadetship and development programme. Foundation members of the Te Rito programme include Don Mann, CEO Pacific Media Network; Wena Harawira, Director of News & Current Affairs, Whakaata Māori; Lois Turei, Head of Cultural Partnerships NZME; and Cathy O'Sullivan, Newshub.

The Te Rito programme trains, upskills, and mentors a cohort of trainees through the partner organisations. Through diversity of voice, the programme will create journalists who reflect Aotearoa. The goal is to ensure newsrooms reflect a multicultural Aotearoa, and to provide training and guidance to those who have the potential to shape the future of the media industry in New Zealand. Te Rito was created to address the critical shortage of reo Māori and Pasifika journalists, and to foster greater cultural awareness within newsrooms.

This unique model is a partnership between leading newsrooms grounded in the whakapapa of Te Rito, which is the emerging shoot at the heart of the harakeke, flax plant, representing the trainees. Te Awhi Rito are the surrounding leaves, which nurture and protect, and these are the trainers. Te Matua Rito are the external leaves, which anchor the ecosystem, which represents the news executives. The kaupapa of Te Rito is the shared responsibility of many, the collective skills and resources that enable success.  

The inaugural Te Rito class graduated in February 2022 and went into media organisations including Whakaata Māori, NZ Herald, Newshub, Pacific Media Network, Whanganui Chronicle, BusinessDesk, iwi Radio, Cinco Cine and the Greens communications team. In 2023, a second cohort was enrolled.

Because the Te Rito programme was designed collectively by the four newsroom partners, it draws on their combined expertise and resources, with a view to sharing and building capability across the industry. The partnership offers every storytelling platform in a contemporary New Zealand news and media environment, covering digital, audio, radio, video, television, print, and social media. The programme includes training in specialist disciplines as well as cadet and/or trainee placements across the partner newsrooms. The programme aims to produce well-rounded junior and mid-level journalists, well-equipped to thrive in newsrooms, large and small, across the motu and be the voice for Aotearoa’s diverse communities and perspectives.

According to INMA (2023), the programme draws on Kaupapa Māori design (Māori values and principles), take a tuakana-teina (senior-junior) approach, each trainer is responsible for the pastoral care of every trainee to ensure their physical, emotional and cultural wellbeing. The cadets would earn while learning, being paid a living wage for the duration of the one-year course. 

Chris Winitana, renowned in te āo Māori for his work as a journalist, author, educator and Māori language expert, is one of the head tutors, which is indicative of the calibre of the programme.

The cadets spend time in each of the media partners’ newsrooms, where they learn hands-on from teachers and mentors within each newsroom. This is something that GM of Content at Pacific Media Network, Susana Guttenbeil, says is vital (NZoA, 2022). She is quoted as saying:

“Diversity of voice in a newsroom is so significant,” says Guttenbeil. “Because if we aren’t voicing our narrative, someone else will speak for us. We know our ancestors were gifted storytellers, orators and navigators, and we hope to instil that thinking into the news space – free of the constraints of mainstream and western ideals.”

TVNZ Rautaki Māori

Te Reo Tātaki, the leading voice, is the te reo Māori name for TVNZ. The Māori Strategic Framework for Te Reo Tātaki addresses the legislative requirement to reflect Māori perspectives. In 2023, there is a dedicated team to ensure Rautaki Māori delivers on those legislative requirements within a Treaty-based framework. Their responsibility to reflect Māori perspectives is enshrined in legislation, but they are committed to going further to normalise Māori language and culture onscreen and help reach the goal of one million speakers in Aotearoa by 2040. Rautaki is led by Professor Scotty Morrison, and Acting Director of Content, Nevak Rogers; with support from Sir Mason Durie, Professor Meihana Durie and renowned broadcaster Stacey Morrison. The report outlines the strategies that are designed to contribute to the revitalisation of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori; build Te Tiriti informed relationships with Māori and mātauranga experts; encourage Māori productions in te reo and the English language; and develop cultural integrity strategies that protect cultural authenticity, whilst ensuring cultural safety. 

The guiding statement refers to unleashing the pūmanawa of Aotearoa, and a waka metaphor is utilised to illustrate a process for empowering voices onscreen and in the industry (mana reo); fostering tikanga, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, wairuatanga, kaitiakitanga (mana tangata); ensuring Treaty partnership-based leadership across all levels in the organisation (mana tātaki).

According to their statement, the previously mentioned Cultural Integrity Strategy provides a bespoke and transferable model, predicated on four pou, requiring productions to ensure they have planned for the following:

  • Accuracy and cultural appropriateness, a plan to ensure processes ad personnel are equipped to provide a cultural safety net, to ensure there are checks and balances across all stages of the production;
  • Cultural authenticity, providing an authentic Māori lens across editorial and onscreen representation;
  • Cultural safety, ensuring kaimahi are operating in a culturally-safe environment;
  • Capacity building: building cultural competence and providing opportunities to grow Māori practitioners within a production.

Such a strategy might be used as ‘tick-box’ exercise, thus, a comprehensive evaluation process is needed to ensure that cast, crew and community are continually protected.

Lessons learned from the case studies

The above examples highlight organisations and communities that are developing innovative initiatives and strategies, which are enhancing mātauranga Māori, whilst delivering a range of social impacts to their communities of interest, thereby further enriching the culture, identity and wellbeing of Aotearoa New Zealand. Each shares commonalities, which we have synthesised below, that might inform further investment in other communities and organisations, with the potential to deliver similar outcomes.


Leadership that is founded on, and supportive of:

  • Kaupapa Māori principles of for, with and by Māori.
  • Working in mana-enhancing partnerships with Māori communities and organisations, as well as non-Māori and government entities.
  • Respect for mātauranga, in terms of worldview, content and strategies for action.


Strategy that is clearly articulated, founded on mātauranga Māori, kōrero tuku iho, that delivers positive outcomes for Māori, particularly in terms of aspirations for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake.


Openness to innovation and change, underpinned by entrepreneurial intent, with a concomitant commitment and ability to source adequate and appropriate resources for change and development, whilst providing appropriate support and professional development for all involved with the innovation, to ensure smooth transitions.

Community involvement

Ensuring ownership, buy-in, approval and ongoing commitment to and from the communities of interest, iwi, kāinga, hapori. 

Government Investment 

The capacity to identify and source appropriate government involvement and support, across multiple agencies, to provide adequate investment and funding, through long-term commitments, which have a greater chance of capacity building for Māori in media.

The challenge for Crown entities with responsibilities across media, is to work with these organisations to ensure their further success, and to help identify and support other Māori communities and initiatives with the potential to make further contributions to enhancing mātauranga Māori in the media.  


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